Total sales of single-family homes, apartment condos and co-ops dropped 12.7 percent in the third quarter compared to third-quarter 2005, the National Association of Realtors reported today.

The Realtor group also announced that among a sample of 148 metro areas, the median sales price of existing single-family homes dropped 1.2 percent in the third quarter compared to third-quarter 2005. The report found that 102 metro areas had price gains, while 21 experienced double-digit annual increases, 45 areas had price declines, and one area was unchanged.

At the state level, most states had fewer sales of single-family homes, apartment condos and co-ops in the third quarter compared to third-quarter 2005, the Realtor group reported. The sales decline was sharpest in Nevada, at 38 percent, followed by Arizona, at 36 percent; Florida, at 34.2 percent; California, at 28.6 percent; and Hawaii, at 25.8 percent.

North Carolina led states with a 9.7 percent rise in sales in third-quarter sales in the third quarter compared to third-quarter 2005, followed by Texas, at 8.6 percent; Montana, at 6.4 percent; Louisiana, at 4.5 percent; and Arkansas, at 4.3 percent, according to the report.

Total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.27 million units in the third quarter, compared to the 7.18 million-unit pace in the third quarter of 2005 — the second highest level on record. Ten states showed increases in sales activity from a year ago, the Realtor group reported.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate is a projection of a monthly sales total over a 12-month period, adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations in sales activity.

The national median existing single-family home price was $224,900 in the third quarter, compared with $227,600 in third-quarter 2005. The median is a typical market price where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement that market conditions are nearly the opposite of a year ago.

“Last year we had a record sales market and historically tight supplies of homes with buyers bidding over the asking price,” he said. “With the market in full transition, buyers now have choices and sellers are more willing to negotiate — under these circumstances it’s no surprise that overall home prices are slightly below a year ago. We expect this trend to continue in the months ahead, but we’ll see modest appreciation in most of the country in 2007.”

Pat Vredevoogd Combs, NAR president, said in a statement that the supply of homes is at its highest level in over a decade, though “inventories are starting to decline.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage was 6.56 percent in the third quarter, down from 6.6 percent in the second quarter; the rate was 5.76 percent in the third quarter of 2005. Last week, Freddie Mac reported the 30-year fixed rate was down to 6.24 percent.

The largest single-family home-price increase was in the Salem, Ore., area, where the third-quarter price of $228,000 was 24.7 percent higher than a year ago, the association reported. Next was Elmira, N.Y., at $93,600, up 21.4 percent compared to third-quarter 2005. The Salt Lake City metro area, with a third-quarter median price of $216,300, increased 19.2 percent.

Median third-quarter metro-area single-family prices ranged from $86,000 in both Decatur, Ill., and the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman area of Ohio and Pennsylvania, to nearly nine times that amount in the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area where the median price was $749,400. The second most expensive area was the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area of California, at $747,400, followed by the Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine area (in Orange County, Calif.), at $705,000.

South Bend-Mishawaka, Ind., with a third-quarter median price of $96,000, and the Cumberland area of Maryland and West Virginia at $100,900 ranked among the most affordable metro areas in the third quarter.

In the condo sector, metro area condominium and cooperative prices – covering changes in 57 markets – show the national median existing condo price was $222,900 in the third quarter, down 2.1 percent from the same period in 2005, the Realtor group announced. Thirty-one metros showed annual increases in the median condo price, including eight areas with double-digit gains. Twenty-seven 27 metro areas had price declines in the third quarter compared to third-quarter 2005.

The strongest third-quarter condo price gains were in the Knoxville, Tenn., area, where the price rose 29 percent to $155,700 compared to third-quarter 2005. In Wichita, Kan., the median condo price rose 25.5 percent to $130,300 compared to third-quarter 2005, while Albuquerque, N.M., rose 21 percent to $153,300.

Metro-area median existing condo prices in the third quarter ranged from $108,200 in Rochester, N.Y., to $600,600 in the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont metro area. The next most expensive reported condo market was Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, at $384,500, followed by the San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos area of California at $361,100.

Other affordable condo markets include Bismarck, N.D., at $109,000, and Greensboro-High Point, N.C., at $113,000.

Regionally, total existing-home sales in the South were at an annual rate of 2.52 million units in the third quarter, down 7.8 percent from a year ago, according to the report.

The median existing single-family home price in the South was $187,300 in the third quarter, which is 0.1 percent below a year earlier. The strongest increase in the South was in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News area, where the median price of $243,800 was 16.9 percent above the third quarter of 2005. Next was Gainesville, Fla., at $215,200, up 15.9 percent from a year ago, followed by the Gulfport-Biloxi area of Mississippi, with a 15.7 percent gain to $154,400, according to the report.

In the Midwest, total existing-home sales declined 11.8 percent to a 1.42 million-unit annual level compared to the third quarter of 2005. Sales rose 3.1 percent from a year ago in North Dakota.

The median existing single-family home price in the Midwest was $170,500 in the third quarter, down 2.6 percent from a year earlier. The strongest metro price increase in the region was in the Wichita, Kan., metro area, where the median price of $127,900 was up 15 percent compared to third-quarter 2005. Next was Bismarck, N.D., at $140,400, up 7.4 percent, and Kankakee-Bradley, Ill., up 6.1 percent to $138,400.

The existing-home sales pace in the Northeast fell 12.5 percent compared to third-quarter 2005. The median resale single-family home price in the Northeast was $276,000 in the third quarter, down 4.8 percent compared to the same period in 2005.

After Elmira, N.Y., the strongest price increase in the Northeast was in Atlantic City, N.J., with a median price of $277,200, up 12 percent from third-quarter 2005, followed by Binghamton, N.Y., with a median price of $107,400, up 10 percent.

In the West, the existing-home sales pace dropped 21.5 percent compared to third-quarter 2005.

The median existing single-family home price in the West dropped 0.9 percent to $349,000 during the third quarter. After Salem, Ore., and Salt Lake City, the strongest increase in the West was in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area of Washington, at $372,400, up 14.6 percent from third quarter of 2005, followed by Spokane, Wash., at $191,100, up 14.1 percent, and Farmington, N.M., at $176,200, up 12.9 percent from a year ago, the association reported.

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