WASHINGTON (11/21/13)--Prices are on the rise, but it's not exactly a seller's market.
A diminished market supply pushed home prices up, but home sales continued to decline for the second month running in October, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Total existing home sales--completed transactions of single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops--fell 3.2% last month, to 5.12 million from 5.29 million in September.
The national median home price for all housing types clocked in at $199,500 in October, up 12.8% from October 2012--the 11th consecutive month of double-digit year-to-year increases.
Total sales were also higher on an annual basis by 6%. In October 2012, 4.83 million homes were sold.
Median time on the market was lower in October than it was the year before--down to 54 days from 71 days--but higher than the 50 days measured in September.
A major driving force behind the reduced stock of homes is the drop in distressed sales. Foreclosures and short sales accounted for 14% of all transactions in October--they constituted a quarter of all sales in October 2012. Total housing inventory at the end of October dropped on a monthly basis by 1.8% to 2.13 million.
The NAR said that despite historically low interest rates, credit remains "unnecessarily restrictive," with qualified buyers being denied loans. First-time buyers made up 28% of purchases in October, which is unchanged from September, but down from 31% in October the year before.
The biggest regional one-month drop in existing sales happened in the West, where the measure fell by 7.1%. In the Northeast, Midwest and South, existing sales dropped from September to October by 2.9%, 1.6% and 1.9% respectively.