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Existing Home Sales Decline 3.4% From September

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, fell 3.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.36 million in October from 5.55 million in September. Despite last month's decline, sales are still 3.9 percent above a year ago (5.16 million).

The median existing-home price for all housing types in October was $219,600, which is 5.8 percent above October 2014 ($207,500). October's price increase marks the 44th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of October decreased 2.3 percent to 2.14 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 4.5 percent lower than a year ago (2.24 million). Unsold inventory is at a 4.8-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 4.7 months in September.

The percent share of first-time buyers increased to 31 percent in October, up from 29 percent both in September and a year ago. NAR's annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released earlier this month – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers fell to its second-lowest level since the survey began in 1981.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage stayed below 4 percent for the third consecutive month, declining in October to 3.80 from 3.89 percent in September. A year ago, the average commitment rate was 4.04 percent.

All-cash sales were 24 percent of transactions in October (unchanged from September) and are down from 27 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 13 percent of homes in October, unchanged from September but down from 15 percent a year ago. Sixty-two percent of investors paid cash in October.

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – declined to 6 percent in October, which is the lowest since NAR began tracking in October 2008; they were 9 percent a year ago. Five percent of October sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 18 percent below market value in October (17 percent in September), while short sales were discounted 8 percent (19 percent in September).

"All-cash and investor sales are still somewhat elevated historically despite the diminishing number of distressed properties," adds Yun. "With supply already meager at the lower-end of the price range, competition from these buyers only adds to the list of obstacles in the path for first-time buyers trying to reach the market."

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