Existing Home Sales Rise 1.7% on Mortgage Rate Rush

Sales of existing homes set a new recovery high in August, according to a National Association of Realtors (NAR) report released today. Total existing home sales increased 1.7% month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.48 million.

After jumping up 6.5% for July in what the NAR saw as a move by consumers to get in ahead of rising mortgage rates, this month's report could tell a similar tale. August's number is the highest level since February 2007 as buyers rushed to close deals before mortgage rates increased further. (August sales reflect contracts signed in June and July, when mortgage rates were rising steadily.)

"Rising mortgage interest rates pushed more buyers to close deals, but monthly sales are likely to be uneven in the months ahead from several market frictions," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a statement today. "Tight inventory is limiting choices in many areas, higher mortgage interest rates mean affordability isn't as favorable as it was, and restrictive mortgage lending standards are keeping some otherwise qualified buyers from completing a purchase."

Analysts hadn't expected the rush to last as long, having predicted a 5.26 million seasonally adjusted annual rate for August. Compared to 12 months ago, sales are up 13.2%.  The numbers include completed transactions on single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops.

For the same month, the housing inventory increased 0.4% which, at the current sales rate, represents a 4.9-month supply of existing homes, down from July's 5.0 month supply.

As sales headed higher again, the median home price clocked in at $212,000. Compared to a year ago, August's price tag is 14.7% pricier, and represents the largest year-to-year gain since 2005. The median time on the market was 43 days, up one day from July but down 27 days from August 2012's market.

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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