Sales of existing homes fell 7.7% in November compared with October, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The seasonally adjusted annualized pace was 4.09 million units. That is weaker than the 4.17 million units housing analysts had predicted, and it was a much deeper fall than usual monthly declines.
Sales were down 35.4% year over year, marking the tenth straight month of declines. That was the weakest pace since November 2010, with the exception of May 2020, when sales fell sharply, albeit briefly, during the early days of the Covid pandemic. In November 2010, the nation was mired in the great recession as well as a foreclosure crisis.
These counts are based on closings, so the contracts were likely signed in September and October, when mortgage rates last peaked before coming down slightly last month. Rates are now about one percentage point lower than they were at the end of October, but still a little more than twice what they were at the start of this year.
“In essence, the residential real estate market was frozen in November, resembling the sales activity seen during the Covid-19 economic lockdowns in 2020,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “The principal factor was the rapid increase in mortgage rates, which hurt housing affordability and reduced incentives for homeowners to list their homes. Plus, available housing inventory remains near historic lows.”
At the end of November there were 1.14 million homes for sale, which is an increase of 2.7% from November of last year, but at the current sales pace it represents a still-low 3.3 month supply.
Low supply kept prices higher than a year ago, up 3.5% to a median sale price of $370,700, but those annual gains are shrinking fast, well off the double digit gains seen earlier this year. It is still the highest November price the Realtors have ever recorded, and, at 129 straight months, it is the longest running streak of year-over-year price gains since the realtors began tracking this in 1968. Roughly 23% of homes sold above list price, due to tight supply.
“We have seen home prices come down from their summer peaks over the past five months. At the same time, we have also seen rent growth retreat for 10 consecutive months,” wrote George Ratiu, senior economist at Realtor.com in a release. “However, the cost of real estate remains challenging for many households looking for a place to call home, especially as high inflation and still-elevated interest rates have been eroding purchasing power.”
Sales decreased in all regions but fell hardest in the West, where prices are the highest, down nearly 46% from a year ago.
Homes sat on the market longer in November, an average 24 days, up from 21 days in October and 18 days in November 2021. Despite the slower market, 61% of homes went under contract in less than a month.
With prices still high and mortgage rates hitting a cyclical peak, first-time buyers remained on the sidelines. They were responsible for 28% of sales in November, which was unchanged from October, and up slightly from 26% in November 2021. Historically first-time buyers make up about 40% of the market. A separate survey from the Realtors put the annual share at 26%, the lowest since they began tracking.
Sales fell across all price categories, but took the steepest dive in the luxury million-dollar-plus category, dropping 41% year-over-year. That sector had seen the biggest gain in the first years of the pandemic.
Mortgage rates have come off their recent highs, but it remains to be seen if it will be enough to offset higher prices.
“The market may be thawing since mortgage rates have fallen for five straight weeks,” Yun added. “The average monthly mortgage payment is now almost $200 less than it was several weeks ago when interest rates reached their peak for this year.”