At the national level, this summer has been delicate in many respects for housing. Sales of existing homes stand healthy above year-ago levels, but keep slipping month to month. Meanwhile, inventory levels are slowly increasing each month while still lagging behind last year's numbers. Indeed, in many areas, it's a seller's market out there.
Recent monthly data from the National Association of Realtors shows existing home sales fell 1.2% in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.08 million. Despite the dip, sales are 15.2% higher than the same month a year ago.
At the same time, median prices have increased over year-ago levels for 16 months in a row, according to NAR data. The national median home price was $214,000 in June, up 13.5% from the same month last year.
Inventory of homes for sale – which we've been closely watching here – rose 1.9% in June to 2.19 million existing homes, a 5.2-month supply at today's rate of sales. That was up from 5 months in May, but 7.6% below the same month last year when there was a 6.4-month supply.
While things have looked up for sellers in many markets, what about buyers? Well, that also depends on the market. While some markets continue to remain affordable to buyers (especially as average rents rise), rising interest rates and squeezed inventories have made it difficult in others.
One good sign on the buy side that we haven't heard much about in this recovery until now is the anticipation of more boomerang buyers – former homeowners who have gone through a short sale, foreclosure or bankruptcy in the past few years and are preparing to purchase a house again.
Real estate analysis company John Burns Real Estate Consulting has identified markets across the U.S. with the highest share of boomerang buyers, including Riverside-San Bernardino with 4.1% of all boomerang buyers in the U.S. in 2013, Los Angeles with 3.7%, Phoenix with 3.6%, Chicago with 2.5%, Atlanta with 2.4%, Las Vegas with 2.12%, and Washington, D.C. with 2.1%.
John Burns expects the number of boomerang buyers to double last year in some markets – Phoenix, for example.
As we continue through the rest of the year, we'll need to look closely at more statistics like these – beyond straight home sales – to gain a deeper understanding of the health of the market and expectations going forward.