Despite the impact of Hurricane Sandy, sales of existing homes for October were up, the National Association of Realtors reported last week. Completed sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops for the month grew by 2.1 percent over September to hit an annual rate of 4.79 million. October’s sales were 10.9 percent higher than the 4.32 million-unit pace set a year earlier in October 2011.
Looking at prices, the national median price in October for existing homes of all types was $178,600, marking an 11.1 percent gain over prices a year ago. October’s gain marked the eighth consecutive monthly annual increase in price. This last occurred in the October 2005 to May 2006 period.
Still, distressed homes, such as foreclosures and short sales, which are sold at deep discounts, accounted for 24 percent of October sales, which was the same in September. Foreclosures, which made up half of distressed sales, sold for an average discount of 20 percent below market value in October, while short sales, which accounted for the other half of total distressed sales, were discounted 14 percent.
The supply of homes for sale at the end of October fell 1.4 percent to 2.14 million existing homes, which amounted to a 5.4-month supply at October’s sales pace. This was down from 5.6 months in September, and is the lowest housing supply since February of 2006 when it was 5.2 months.
In other real estate news, construction permits issued for private housing in October were at an annual rate of 866,000, the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development jointly reported last week. This marked a 2.7 percent dip from the September rate of 890,000, but was 29.8 percent over October 2011’s estimated rate of 667,000. Permits issued for single-family homes in October were at a rate of 562,000, which was 2.2 percent over the September figure of 550,000.
Construction starts on private housing in October gained 3.6 percent over September to hit an annual rate of 894,000. This was 41.9 percent over the October 2011 rate of 630,000. Starts on single-family homes in October were at a rate of 594,000, which was 0.2 percent below the revised September figure of 595,000.
Completions on construction of private homes in October hit an annual rate of 772,000, a 14.5 percent gain over the revised September estimate of 674,000, and 33.6 percent over the October 2011 rate of 578,000. Single-family housing completions in October were at a rate of 542,000, which was 3.4 percent over the revised September rate of 524,000.
Turning to employment news, the number of initial claims for jobless benefits filed during the week ending Nov. 17 dipped to 410,000, a decrease of 41,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 451,000, the Employment and Training Administration Reported. The four-week moving average was 396,250, an increase of 9,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 386,750.
The total number of insured unemployed Americans during the week ending Nov. 10 was 3,337,000, a decrease of 30,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 3,367,000, the Administration also reported. The four-week moving average was 3,285,000, an increase of 19,500 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,265,500.
All in all, the economy looks to be seeing a slight upward trend, according to The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index (LEI), which increased 0.2 percent in October to 96 (a baseline of 100 was set in 2004), following a 0.5 percent increase in September, and a 0.4 percent decline in August. The composite economic index summarizes several key economic statistics, such as average weekly hours, new orders for manufacturers, common stocks, credit indexes, and interest rates.