Sales of existing homes rose again in May and prices posted the biggest annual gain in eight years the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) said today.  Total existing home sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.18 million units in May, 4.2 percent above the 4.97 million unit pace reported for April and 12.9 percent more than in May 2012 when the annual rate was 4.59 million units.  

Sales have now risen compared to year-earlier figures for 23 months and May was the best market for  existing home sales since November 2009 during the tax stimulus when sales jumped to 5.44 million.  Single-family home sales rose 5.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.60 million in May from 4.38 million in April, and are 12.7 percent higher than the 4.08 million-unit pace in May 2012. The national median price for all existing housing was $208,000 in May, a 15.4 percent increase over May 2012.  The national median price has now risen for 15 consecutive months on a year-over-year basis; the last time this happened was from March 2005 to May 2006.  May was the sixth straight month that those annual increases have been in double digits and May's was also the strongest price gain since October 2005 when median prices jumped 16.6 percent from a year earlier, the largest increase ever recorded by NAR. This means we should continue to expect lower supplies and higher prices for housing.  "The housing numbers are overwhelmingly positive.  However, the number of available homes is unlikely to grow, despite a nice gain in May, unless new home construction ramps up quickly. With home prices growing this fast only additional supply from new construction can moderate future price growth.The median existing single-family home price was $208,700 in May, up 15.8 percent above a year ago, and also the strongest increase since October 2005 when it jumped 16.9 percent from a year earlier. Foreclosures and short sales only accounted for 18 percent fo May sales and sold at an average discount of 12 to 15 percent.  This was unchanged from April and, with April the lowest share since NAR began tracking the metric in October 2008.  One year ago distressed home sales had a 25 percent market share, so distressed home sales are decreasing helping to add to the increases in sale prices.  Listed inventory is 10.1 percent below a year ago, when there was a 6.5-month supply. The issue now is pent-up demand and strong growth with buyer traffic 29 percent above a year ago.  In addition, the time it takes to sell a home has been dropping steadily with homes being listed an average of just 3 to 4 months.

Here in the Northeast, existing-home sales rose 1.6 percent to an annual rate of 650,000 in May and are 8.3 percent above May 2012.  The median price in the Northeast was up 12.3 percent from a year ago.  With prices steadily increasing and inventory steadily decreasing we should continue to see home prices go up through the summer months.  In addition, interest rates a trending higher.  The moral is, if you are thinking of buying a home it is time to get off the fence.  It seems that it will only get harder to find a home and the cost will continue to go up, meaning less bang for your money. Act now before prices climb higher, inventory falls shorter and interest rates raise any further.