Existing Home Sales At 3-Year Low: Homebuilder ETFs In Focus

In December 2018, existing home sales fell to a three-year low, while rise in housing prices slipped to the lowest level in more than six years. Per National Association of Realtors (NAR), contract signings declined 6.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.99 million units last month— the lowest since November 2015.

Sales for November were revised slightly up to 5.33 million units from the previously reported 5.32 million units. Existing home sales, which account for 90% of U.S. home sales, dropped 10.3% on a year-over-year basis.  For 2018 as a whole, existing home sales fell 3.1% from 2017 to 5.34 million units—weakest since 2015.

The median sales price rose 2.9% on an annual basis to $253,600. This was the lowest increase since February 2012. Slowdown in home-price growth is an indication that owners who are struggling to sell their homes are now trimming down prices. Meanwhile, the drop in price increase might infuse some momentum in the market for potential buyers who have been away from the sector owing to escalated prices and fears of a housing price bubble.

From the perspective of inventory, it would take around 3.7 months to sell all homes in the market, down from the 3.9 months last November. Realtors see less than five months of supply as an indication of a tight housing market.

Other Unfavorable Signs

In December 2018, Fannie Mae’s home purchase sentiment index fell to its lowest level in two years. Four out of 10 Americans said that “it’s a bad time to buy a home,” the highest on record since June 2010.

Further, the longest U.S. government shutdown is affecting the housing market. The recent survey conducted by NARhas suggested that some government employees are pulling out of purchase offers, while some are being denied loans due to the absence of wages. Also, some non-government employees are having second thoughts regarding purchases, given the overall concerns and uncertainty in the economy.

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