NAR: U.S. home sales rise more than 20% year-over-year in September

by Clayton Jarvis23 Oct 2020

Yesterday, the National Association of Realtors released its existing-homes sales report for September 2020. The unforeseen housing boom that has unfolded during the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have plenty of gas left in the tank.

NAR reported that existing-home sales grew 9.4 percent compared to August and 20.9 percent versus September 2019. It was the fourth consecutive month of growth.

Contributing to the spike in sales activity, says Mortgage Bankers Association senior vice president and chief economist Mike Fratantoni, “is an improving job market, low rates, and families across the country looking for more – or different – space.”

Frantantoni says the only thing holding the market back at this point is low inventory, an assumption that plays out in NAR’s data. The organization found there was just over two-and-a-half months of inventory left in the U.S. market at the end of September.  

“Fortunately, we are seeing a pick-up in the pace of construction,” he says, “which should bring more inventory onto the market for next year’s buyers.”

Low supply and raging demand can mean only one thing: higher prices. NRA said the median existing-home sale price in September was $311,800, 14.8 percent higher than it was a year before. The median existing single-family home price was $316,200, while the median existing condo price was $272,700.

Zillow economist Matthew Speakman said in a statement that competition for the shrinking number of homes available on the market “has placed remarkable upward pressure on prices, particularly for single-family homes,” adding that annual growth of single-family home prices “has risen by more in the last three months than in any previously recorded period dating back to 1969.”

The majority of September’s action went down in the South, where 43 percent of sales took place. The Midwest and West of the country accounted for 23 percent and 21 percent of sales, respectively, while the remaining 13 percent of sales occurred in the Northeast.

It was the Northeast, however, that experienced the largest year-over-year increase in price. The median price in the Northeast rose 17.8 percent in September, hitting $354,600. It was followed closely by the West, where the median price rose 17.1 percent versus September 2019 to reach $470,800.

Buyers, enticed by the low-rate environment, gravitated away from entry-level properties in September. Sales of properties in the $0 to $100,000 range fell by 16.3 percent year-over-year, while sales of homes in the $100,000 to $250,000 range grew by only 4.3 percent. Sales soared in the more expensive price ranges, particularly in the $500,000 to $750,000, $750,000 to $1 million, and $1 million-plus categories, where they increased by 66.6 percent, 85.5 percent, and an eye-popping 106.5 percent, respectively, year-over-year.

Fratantoni says the fact that this year’s sales boom has bled into the fall speaks to the unprecedented nature of the 2020 housing market.

“Typical seasonal patterns for home sales have likely been thrown off as a result of this crisis,” he says. “Sales that would have normally occurred in the summer have likely been pushed into the fall, and this may account for some of the extremely fast pace of existing sales on a seasonally adjusted basis.”