Despite Appearances, Home Sales Fizzle, Not Sizzle

Number of the Day: The most relevant or interesting figure in personal finance

Number of the Day

That’s how many months the volume of home sales has now declined, a sign that rampant demand has its limits.

While the housing market may seem as hot as ever, a shortage of properties for sale and sky high prices is denting the total number of transactions in a clear downward trend. Sales of existing homes—including single-family houses, condos, townhomes and co-ops—fell 0.9% between April and May, the fourth straight monthly decline, the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday. 

"Home sales fell moderately in May and are now approaching pre-pandemic activity," Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, said in a press release. "Lack of inventory continues to be the overwhelming factor holding back home sales, but falling affordability is simply squeezing some first-time buyers out of the market.”

Relatively low mortgage rates and the intense demand for more space—underscored by how quickly homes are flying off the market—haven’t been enough to keep sales from decelerating. The current pace of home sales, expressed as an annual rate, is still slightly higher than levels seen in 2018 and 2019, but 14% below the recent peak in October. Prices continue to break new records and the inventory of homes on the market remains depleted.

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