NAR Cuts Figures for Existing Homes Sold Since 2007

The number of existing homes sold in the U.S. since 2007 has been downwardly revised by an average of 14 percent by the National Association of Realtors today in Washington.

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The group revised purchases to 4.19 million in 2010, down 15 percent from a prior estimate of 4.91 million. However sales climbed 4 percent in November to a 4.42 million annual pace, up from a 4.25 million rate the prior month.

The NAR trimmed purchases by 11 percent for 2007, by 16 percent for 2008, and 16 percent in 2009. “Even before the revisions things were bad, now they are even worse,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.

Comparable downward revisions to inventory were made, and today’s report left median prices little changed from prior estimates.

The revisions show “how weak housing activity has been,” said Michelle Meyer, a senior U.S. economist at Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) in New York. “The big take-away is that there was an even bigger gap between affordability and housing demand, making it even more difficult to trigger the rebound in housing.”

The consolidation of listing services has caused distortions in sales data, according to Yun, thus necessitating the revisions in today’s report. Yun said overestimates of direct sales by owners, as well as homebuilders’ use of the MLS to sell new homes also contributed to the distortions.

Existing-home sales rose 11 percent in the 12 months ending in November, before adjusting for seasonal variations. However, the number of previously owned homes on the market dropped to 2.58 million last month.

It would take 7 months to sell all of those houses at the current sales pace, down from 7.7 months at the end of October. A seven- to eight-month supply is normally consistent with stable home prices, said Yun, adding that he thought property values would likely climb in the “single digits” next year.

Sales of existing single-family homes grew 4.5 percent to an annual rate of 3.95 million, while purchases of multifamily properties, including condominiums and townhouses, were little changed at a 470,000 pace.

The median price of a previously owned home declined 3.5 percent year-over-year to $164,200, down from $170,200 in November 2010.

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