It was a disappointment, but at least it wasn't a loss. Existing home sales, which were expected to increase in August after four straight months of declines instead remained unchanged from July. In fact, almost the entire report on August's existing home sales can be summarized by the word, "flat."
Said sales of single-family homes, townhouses, condos, and cooperative apartments were at the seasonally adjusted rate of 5.34 million, identical to the July rate. Sales in July had fallen 1.5 percent below those from a year earlier, and that too was unchanged in the August to August comparisons. Existing home sales were selling at an annual rate of 5.42 million in August of last year.
Econoday said the analysts it polls were expecting at least a modest increase after months of lagging sales analysts. They forecasted results in the range of 5.290 million to 5.460 million with a consensus of 5.360 million.
Sales of both single-family homes and condos didn't sparkle either. Single-family sales were at the same 4.75 million annual rate as in July and condo sales remained at 590,000 units. Single family sales remain below sales a year earlier, by 1.0 percent and condo sales are down 4.8 percent.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the decline in existing home sales appears to have hit a plateau with robust regional sales. "Strong gains in the Northeast and a moderate uptick in the Midwest helped to balance out any losses in the South and West, halting months of downward momentum," he said. "With inventory stabilizing and modestly rising, buyers appear ready to step back into the market."
Do declines hit a plateau or a trough? It could be the former with another wave down.
- Sales in the Northeast bumped up by 7.6 percent in August to an annual rate of 710,000 units which was however down 2.7 percent lower from a year earlier. The median price in the Northeast was $292,800, a 2.6 percent annual increase.
- In the Midwest, existing-home sales rose 2.4 percent to an annual rate of 1.28 million, remaining behind the year-ago level by 0.8 percent. The median price in the region rose 3.4 percent to $208,500.
- Existing-home sales in the South were at an annual rate of 2.23 million, an 0.4 percent decline from July but up from 2.19 million year-over-year. The median priced home in the South cost $227,900, 3.2 percent more than in August 2017.
- Existing-home sales in the West dropped 5.9 percent to an annual rate of 1.12 million and are 7.4 percent below a year ago. The median price rose 4.8 percent to $392,900.
It took an increase in sales of 7.6% in the Northeast to balance things out.
That's unlikely to be sustainable.
Coming up, the impact of Hurricane Florence will be felt. Likely an initial decline, then a surge of some sort.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock