The sales of existing homes fell in September, after remaining almost completely flat the month prior. However, the level of existing-home inventory held its annual gain, reflecting a slight improvement over September 2017.

According to recent data released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), closed transactions for existing single-family homes, townhouses, condos, and cooperative apartments was at a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.15 million in September. This reflects a 3.4 percent drop from both the July and August rates, both of which came in at 5.34 million units.

The month-over-month decline in existing-home sales is not new; March was the last month in which there was a month-over-month gain, according to the data. Sales are also down, showing a 4.1 percent year-over-year dip from the September 2017 rate of 5.37 million.

“This is the lowest existing-home sales level since November 2015,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist in a press statement. “A decade’s high mortgage rates are preventing consumers from making quick decisions on home purchases. All the while, affordable home listings remain low, continuing to spur underperforming sales activity across the country.”

Monthly sales of single-family homes saw a 4.0 percent drop, hitting a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.58 million in September. In August the figure was 4.74 million.

Existing-Home Sales Prices

The median existing-home price for all housing types in September was $258,100, reflecting a 4.2 percent gain from the median of $247,600 a year ago. This price increase marks the 79th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

The median existing single-family home price saw annual growth of 4.6 percent to $260,500. The median existing condo price was $239,200 in September, reflecting a fairly modest 1.5 percent annual gain.

Housing Inventory

The number of available homes for sale slipped from 1.91 million in August (an approximate 4.3 month supply), to 1.88 million at the end of September, a 4.4 month supply at the current sales pace. This shows a slight improvement over September 2017 when there were 1.86 million available homes. So while the month-over-month figure has declined, the annual gains in housing inventory is holding for now. Until recently the inventory had fallen on a yearly basis for several months, according to the NAR data.

Days on the Market

Existing homes typically stayed on the market for 32 days in September, an increase from 29 days in August but lower than the 34 days seen a year ago. According to NAR, 47 percent of homes sold in September were on the market for less than a month.

“There is a clear shift in the market with another month of rising inventory on a year over year basis, though seasonal factors are leading to a third straight month of declining inventory,” said Yun. “Homes will take a bit longer to sell compared to the super-heated fast pace seen earlier this year.”

“Rising interest rates coupled with increasing home prices are keeping first-time buyers out of the market, but consistent job gains could allow more Americans to enter the market with a steady and measurable rise in inventory,” he added.

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