The number of existing properties on the market decreased 2.6 percent to 2.21 million in September, the fewest since April, from a month earlier. At the current pace, it would take 4.8 months to sell those houses compared with 5.1 months at the end of August. The inventory of unsold homes was also down from 2.28 million a year earlier.
First-time buyers represented 29 percent of September sales, which is below the typical 40 percent, according to the Realtors group.
“Homebuyers are still coming into the market but first- time buyers are not yet in,” Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said in a news conference Thursday as the figures were released. “With the inventory not really increasing, we may begin to see further tight supply when the spring buying season returns next year.”
Contract closings on single-family homes priced between $100,000 and $250,000, which Yun called the “sweet spot” for the market, were up 9.2 percent from a year earlier. That compares with a 22 percent increase for properties in the $250,000 to $500,000 range.
The median time a home was on the market increased last month to 49 days from 47 days in August.
Purchases of existing homes increased in all four regions, led by an 8.6 percent jump in the Northeast. Sales rose 6.7 percent in the West, 3.8 percent in the South and 2.3 percent in the Midwest.
Sales of single-family homes rose 5.3 percent, the most in six months, while condominium purchases were unchanged.
Cash transactions accounted for about 24 percent of all purchases in September, unchanged from a year ago, according to the report. Sales of distressed property, including foreclosures, accounted for 7 percent of the total for a third month.
The Federal Reserve will be taking the health of the housing market into consideration as officials consider when to raise interest rates for the first time since 2006.
A labor market getting closer to full employment will play into that decision, as it also has for Americans pondering whether to purchase a home.