Realtors(R) Commend FEMA for Effective Implementation of Flood Insurance Reforms

WASHINGTON, DC–(Marketwired – Jul 23, 2014) – Congressional action and the timely implementation of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act relieved property owners of costly premium hikes and stabilized housing markets where flood insurance is required for a mortgage, said the National Association of Realtors® today in testimony before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. There are additional steps that need to be taken, however, to fully address remaining issues.

“The Federal Emergency Management Agency appears determined to get implementation right,” said NAR Flood Insurance Task Force Chair Donna Smith, broker-in-charge of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, C. Dan Joyner Realtors® in Greenville, South Carolina. “In the four months since the law’s enactment, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and Director David Miller have engaged Realtors® and other stakeholders to ensure a successful rollout of the law’s rate relief and refund provisions for property owners, who are still reeling from the wide swings in insurance costs over the past few years.”

Within a month of the legislation’s implementation, FEMA issued rate-relief guidelines to insurers so that homebuyers would not have to pay more than current owners would at the time of their next flood insurance policy renewal. The relief also applies to current homeowners who bought a new policy or let one lapse, not just to owners who bought property after the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act went into effect last year.

Within two months of implementation, FEMA announced its intention to hold 2013 rates constant through 2015 and in some cases even reduce rates. The agency has also provided guidance to insurers to issue refunds this fall to property owners who paid amounts in excess of 2013 rates.

“The progress so far has been encouraging, but there is still more work to be done,” said Smith. “FEMA still needs to set up an Office of the Advocate called for by the Biggert-Waters Act to provide property buyers with the timely help they need to address problems with flood insurance and other rate issues that they face. It is also critical that FEMA and the NFIP ensure the long-term accuracy of flood rates and maps. Homeowners need an independent government advocate who has experience and access to the necessary information to fully investigate and resolve suspect rate quotes.”

NAR looks forward to keeping the dialogue open and working with FEMA to build on the positive early efforts happening only four months after implementation of NFIP reforms.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org. This and other news releases are posted in the “News, Blogs and Video” tab on the website.

US home sales expected to show moderate gain in June from previous month

The National Association of Realtors reports on existing home sales in June. The report is scheduled to be released at 10 a.m. EDT Tuesday.

SALES HIGHER: The expectation is that sales increased 2 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.99 million, according to a survey by data firm Fact Set.

HOME REBOUND: Sales rose 4.9 percent in May, which was the best monthly gain in nearly three years. But even with that increase, the sales rate of 4.89 million was still 5 percent below the pace of May 2013.

Analysts believe that the housing sector may be starting to regain the momentum it lost after a severe winter and last year’s rise in mortgage rates, which cut into the purchasing power for prospective home buyers.

Mortgage rates have come down this year, with 30-year mortgages standing at 4.12 percent last week, according to the Freddie Mac survey.

Yet momentum has been elusive in 2014. Fed Chair Janet Yellen, delivering the central bank’s twice-a-year economic report to Congress last week, described housing activity this year as disappointing.

Also last week, the Commerce Department reported that home construction fell in June to the slowest pace in nine months, a setback to hopes that residential activity was picking up speed. All that weakness came from one region, the South, and economists believe heavy rains there may have had a lot to do with the downturn.

After hitting a peak of 5.38 million sales at an annual rate last July, sales of previously owned homes sputtered. Potential buyers have grappled with a limited supply of homes that is driving prices higher. Lending standards have also been tightened in response to the housing boom of the last decade, when financial institutions granted too many mortgages to home buyers who were unable to meet the monthly payments, resulting in millions of foreclosures.

Five years into the recovery from the deep recession that was triggered in part by the collapse in housing, home sales have yet to return to historic averages. Demand remains strong for the most expensive residences but has faltered for starter homes and those priced for middle class buyers.

The pace of home sales has been below the 5.1 million homes sold in 2013 and off the pace of 5.5 million annual sales that would be consistent with a healthy housing market.

ListHub and NAR Align to Guide Realtors® in Global Real Estate

MORGANTOWN, W.Va., July 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ – ListHub, the nation’s leading listing syndicator and centralized intelligence platform for the real estate industry, today announces a new relationship with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) to guide Realtors® in maximizing their opportunities in the global real estate marketplace. The agreement provides real estate professionals with best-in-class international listing distribution and global education as well as discounts for Realtors® to leverage worldwide advertising exposure available through ListHub Global.

“The prevalence of international investment in the United States presents a tremendous opportunity for Realtors® to expand their market and reach international buyers and investors, if they are prepared to do so,” said Steve Brown, 2014 president of NAR. “This arrangement offers the education and tools to provide global real estate service, as well as an economic advantage for Realtors® to reach the international marketplace through ListHub Global.”

The agreement provides discounts for NAR’s Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) curriculum, a series of global real estate courses that provide the knowledge, research, network and tools to help Realtors® globalize their business and acquire international clients, for ListHub Global customers. CIPS-certified Realtors® have access to the CIPS Referral Network, comprised of 2,300 elite agents in 45 countries worldwide.

The agreement also provides CIPS designees with a 10 percent discount for the ListHub Global service. The ListHub Global network offers brokers the opportunity to increase global exposure of their listings within a controlled platform, with ListHub’s signature streamlined management, comprehensive data protections and unmatched performance metrics. With the merger of ListHub Global network partners EdenHome and ListGlobally, the ListHub Global network includes more than 70 international property publishers in over 40 countries, reaching 60 million international customers.

Helping Realtors® Become Global Experts

The CIPS program helps Realtors® develop the specialized expertise required in an international transaction, from currency issues and financing to visa and tax laws. The exclusive discounts available through the arrangement with ListHub Global empower Realtors® to invest in the combined resources for an unparalleled market advantage when working with international buyers. 

The international market is at peak levels, reaching a record $92.2 billion in sales between April 2013 to March 2014 according to NAR’s 2014 Profile of International Home Buying Activity, released this month. Sales to international clients have jumped 35 percent from the previous period’s level of $68.2 billion.

The report also highlights a substantial increase in sales to buyers from China, increasing from $12.8 billion in the prior period to $22 billion in the 12 months ending in March 2014, and now accounting for nearly 25 percent of total sales to international buyers. Buyers from China generally purchased in higher-priced markets, and 76 percent of reported transactions were all-cash purchases. Appreciation of the Chinese yuan and affordable property contributed to the appeal of the U.S market for many buyers from China, according to the report.

The ListHub Global network includes the leading real estate search website in China, SouFun, which reports more than three million unique visitors each day. Among the site’s 12 million SouFun members, 25 percent have plans to invest in properties outside China within the next three years.

“Buyers from China are predicted to continue to grow in the coming years, yet China’s rigorous Internet regulations limit opportunities to advertise listings in mainland China without working directly with China’s property portals,” said Celeste Starchild, vice president and general manager of ListHub. “ListHub Global allows Realtors® to reach buyers in China within the same secure platform they use for national advertising, in a seamless experience that ensures the data is Multiple Listing Service (MLS)-accurate across the global network of real estate search websites.”

ListHub will host a free, 30 minute webinar July 24 at 4 p.m. EDT. Global Perspectives – Tips for Expanding Your Global Reach will be hosted by ListHub Global Team Leader Aldana Gentinetta and NAR’s Director of Global Marketing and Business Development Katie Stouffs Grimes. The webinar will highlight the latest insights from NAR’s international report and tips for reaching global buyers.

About Move, Inc. and realtor.com®
Move, Inc. (MOVE), a leading provider of online real estate services, operates realtor.com®, which connects people to the essential, accurate information needed to identify their perfect home and to the REALTORS® whose expertise guides consumers through buying and selling. As the official website for the National Association of REALTORS®, realtor.com® empowers consumers to make smart home buying, selling and renting decisions by leveraging its direct, real-time connections with more than 800 multiple listing services (MLS) via all types of computers, tablets and smart telephones. Realtor.com® is where home happens. Move’s network of websites provides consumers a wealth of innovative tools and accurate information including Doorsteps®, HomeInsightSM, SocialBiosSM, Moving.com™, SeniorHousingNetSM, homefairSM and Relocation.com. Move supports real estate agents and brokerages by providing many services to grow their businesses, including ListHub™, the nation’s leading listing syndicator and centralized intelligence platform for the real estate industry; TigerLead®; Top Producer® Systems; and FiveStreetSM; as well as many free services. Move is based in the heart of the Silicon Valley — San Jose, CA.

REALTOR® and REALTOR.COM® are trademarks of the National Association of REALTORS® and are used with its permission. These and all other trademarks used in this work are the property of their respective owners. 

Forward-Looking Statements

This news release may contain forward-looking statements, including information about management’s view of Move’s future expectations, plans and prospects, within the safe harbor provisions under The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, which may cause the results of Move, its subsidiaries, divisions and concepts to be materially different from those expressed or implied in such statements. These risk factors and others are included from time to time in documents Move files with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including but not limited to, its Form 10-Ks, Form 10-Qs and Form 8-Ks. Other unknown or unpredictable factors also could have material adverse effects on Move’s future results. The forward-looking statements included in this press release are made only as of the date hereof. Move cannot guarantee future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements. Accordingly, you should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. Finally, Move expressly disclaims any intent or obligation to update any forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.

Media Contact: Christie Farrell, Move, Inc. 408-558-7115 christie.farrell@move.com 

ListHub and NAR Align to Guide Realtors’ in Global Real Estate


ListHub and NAR Align to Guide Realtors' in Global Real Estate

MORGANTOWN, W.Va., July 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ ListHub, the nation’s leading listing syndicator and centralized intelligence platform for the real estate industry, today announces a new relationship with the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) to guide Realtors in maximizing their opportunities in the global real estate marketplace. The agreement provides real estate professionals with best-in-class international listing distribution and global education as well as discounts for Realtors to leverage worldwide advertising exposure available through ListHub Global.

“The prevalence of international investment in the United States presents a tremendous opportunity for Realtors to expand their market and reach international buyers and investors, if they are prepared to do so,” said Steve Brown, 2014 president of NAR. “This arrangement offers the education and tools to provide global real estate service, as well as an economic advantage for Realtors to reach the international marketplace through ListHub Global.”

The agreement provides discounts for NAR’s Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) curriculum, a series of global real estate courses that provide the knowledge, research, network and tools to help Realtors globalize their business and acquire international clients, for ListHub Global customers. CIPS-certified Realtors have access to the CIPS Referral Network, comprised of 2,300 elite agents in 45 countries worldwide.

The agreement also provides CIPS designees with a 10 percent discount for the ListHub Global service. The ListHub Global network offers brokers the opportunity to increase global exposure of their listings within a controlled platform, with ListHub’s signature streamlined management, comprehensive data protections and unmatched performance metrics. With the merger of ListHub Global network partners EdenHome and ListGlobally, the ListHub Global network includes more than 70 international property publishers in over 40 countries, reaching 60 million international customers.

Helping Realtors Become Global Experts

The CIPS program helps Realtors develop the specialized expertise required in an international transaction, from currency issues and financing to visa and tax laws. The exclusive discounts available through the arrangement with ListHub Global empower Realtors to invest in the combined resources for an unparalleled market advantage when working with international buyers.

The international market is at peak levels, reaching a record $92.2 billion in sales between April 2013 to March 2014 according to NAR’s 2014 Profile of International Home Buying Activity, released this month. Sales to international clients have jumped 35 percent from the previous period’s level of $68.2 billion.

The report also highlights a substantial increase in sales to buyers from China, increasing from $12.8 billion in the prior period to $22 billion in the 12 months ending in March 2014, and now accounting for nearly 25 percent of total sales to international buyers. Buyers from China generally purchased in higher-priced markets, and 76 percent of reported transactions were all-cash purchases. Appreciation of the Chinese yuan and affordable property contributed to the appeal of the U.S market for many buyers from China, according to the report.

The ListHub Global network includes the leading real estate search website in China, SouFun, which reports more than three million unique visitors each day. Among the site’s 12 million SouFun members, 25 percent have plans to invest in properties outside China within the next three years.

“Buyers from China are predicted to continue to grow in the coming years, yet China’s rigorous Internet regulations limit opportunities to advertise listings in mainland China without working directly with China’s property portals,” said Celeste Starchild, vice president and general manager of ListHub. “ListHub Global allows Realtors to reach buyers in China within the same secure platform they use for national advertising, in a seamless experience that ensures the data is Multiple Listing Service (MLS)-accurate across the global network of real estate search websites.”

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US Existing Home Sales Increased in June on Stronger Job Growth, NAR

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Existing home sales in the U.S. went up in June to reach its highest since October 2013 as hiring improved in the country and the economy added more jobs, according to a latest report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Total existing home sales spiked to 2.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted 5.04 million in June, up from May’s adjusted 4.91 million.

Although the pace is slower and figures are 2.3 percent since the same time last year, this is the strongest growth the industry posted since October 2013 when existing home sales reached 5.13 million, the study claimed.

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Sales of existing single-family homes rose 2.5 percent to 4.43 million in June from May’s adjusted 4.34 million. Condo and co-op sales also edged up 3.4 percent to 610,000 apartments in June, up from May’s adjusted 590,000.

NAR noted that home inventory rose significantly too, easing up the pent-up demand from the first few months of 2014. Total housing inventory was up 2.2 percent to 2.30 million houses in June. This represents a 5.5-month supply at the current pace of sales. Prices also gained 2.3 percent on a year-over-year basis in June.

“Inventories are at their highest level in over a year and price gains have slowed to much more welcoming levels in many parts of the country. This bodes well for rising home sales in the upcoming months as consumers are provided with more choices,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR, said in a statement.

Yun added that the housing recovery was headed in the right direction with mortgage rates still at record lows boosting affordability. The NAR attributed the steady growth in home sales to a better hiring report. However, they warned that a sluggish wage growth was holding back a full-fledged recovery.

“Hiring has been a bright spot in the economy this year, adding an average of 230,000 jobs each month. However, the lack of wage increases is leaving a large pool of potential homebuyers on the sidelines who otherwise would be taking advantage of low interest rates. Income growth below price appreciation will hurt affordability,” Yun added.

Indeed, the NAR report found first-time home buyers only accounted for 28 percent of the total sales, just a tad bit up from May’s 27 percent.

“Access to affordable credit continues to hamper young, prospective first-time buyers. NAR recommends that FHA reduce high annual mortgage insurance premiums for all qualified homebuyers and eliminate the insurance requirement for the life of the loan. FHA’s HAWK program is a good start, but it should offer further reductions for participating home buyers,” Steve Brown, president of NAR, added in the statement.

Experts were positive about the report.

“As in the past two months, stronger sales paired with rising prices cause inventories to expand, which sets the stage for another solid month to come,” Patrick Newport and Stephanie Karol, economists at IHS Global Insight wrote in a research note, according to USA Today.

Some, however, are worried about a sustainable growth.

“Without a better pace of income growth, any increase in mortgage rates…will take a bite out of home sales. So, while June’s report is encouraging, the real test will be whether or not improving sales will be sustained over coming months,” Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial Corp told The Wall Street Journal

NAR, ListHub partner to help Realtors grow their international real estate …

The National Association of Realtors and Move Inc.’s listing distribution platform ListHub have partnered to help NAR members broadcast their listings overseas and participate in the rise of international investment in the U.S. housing market.

 

International image via Shutterstock.
International image via Shutterstock.

Under the agreement, NAR members receive a discount on NAR’s Certified International Property Specialist curriculum, which includes courses on handling international clients and international laws. The CIPS designation also provides access to a referral network of 2,300 agents in 45 countries.

CIPS designees will receive a 10 percent discount on ListHub Global, the year-old international listing distribution channel that allows agents and brokers to send listings to a network of 70 international property websites with a presence in more than 40 countries including Brazil, China, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. ListHub Global reaches 60 million international customers, according to Move.

“This arrangement offers the education and tools to provide global real estate service, as well as an economic advantage for Realtors to reach the international marketplace through ListHub Global,” said NAR president Steve Brown in a statement.

International investment in the U.S. housing market totaled $92.2 billion in the 12 months between March 2014 and April 2013, according to NAR’s 2014 Profile of International Homebuying Activity. That’s up 35 percent from the same period a year before.

ListHub Global, which launched a year ago, automatically translates listings in its system to the appropriate language and currency of the various sites in its network, including Swedish publisher EdenHomes, Australia-based publisher ListGlobally and Chinese portal SouFun.

U.S. real estate firms have picked up their international presence in recent years.

In 2011, realtor.com launched realtor.com International, which currently features properties from 38 countries that can be viewed in 11 languages. That same year Re/Max launched the international version of its site, and Trulia began sharing its listings with ListGlobally.

Last September, Century 21 Real Estate launched a global, multilingual site that will eventually make the listings represented by the brand’s agents around the world available to consumers in 16 languages.

Zillow announced in April that it would begin serving up its listings to visitors searching for U.S. properties on the Chinese real estate portal Leju.

Sales of Existing Homes in U.S. Rise to an Eight-Month High

Sales (ETSLTOTL) of previously owned U.S. homes climbed in June to an eight-month high as more listings helped prices cool, luring buyers into the market.

Sales increased 2.6 percent to a 5.04 million annual rate last month, led by gains in all four U.S. regions, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 78 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected sales would rise to a 4.99 million rate. Prices advanced at the slowest pace since March 2012 and inventories rose to an almost two-year high.

Historically low interest rates and smaller price increases are helping bring homeownership within reach for more Americans. A pickup in employment opportunities that lead to faster wage growth would provide an added spark for a residential real-estate market that began to soften in the middle of 2013.

“We’re recovering from the winter doldrums, more people are working and interest rates are attractive,” said Brian Jones, senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, who projected a 5.05 million pace of sales for June.

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey of economists ranged from a sales pace of 4.8 million to 5.11 million after May’s previously reported 4.89 million.




Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Historically low interest rates and smaller price increases are helping bring homeownership within reach for more Americans. Close

Historically low interest rates and smaller price increases are helping bring… Read More

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Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Historically low interest rates and smaller price increases are helping bring homeownership within reach for more Americans.

Another report today showed the cost of living rose in June, paced by a jump in gasoline that is now reversing. The consumer price index increased 0.3 percent after a 0.4 percent gain the prior month, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington. The core measure, which excludes volatile food and fuel costs, rose 0.1 percent, less than projected.

Stocks Climb

Stocks held earlier gains, with benchmark gauges rebounding from yesterday’s slide, as data showed inflation has failed to gain a toehold and investors assessed corporate earnings. The Standard Poor’s 500 Index advanced 0.5 percent to 1,983.56 at 10:42 a.m. in New York.

Compared with a year earlier, purchases of previously owned properties decreased 2.3 percent in June on an adjusted basis, today’s report showed.

The median price of an existing home increased 4.3 percent to $223,300 in June from $214,000 a year before.

“We are getting sales increases in all price points — roughly a single-digit pace,” Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said at a news conference today as the figures were released. Demand has picked up “except for the very low end.”

First-time buyers accounted for 28 percent of all purchases in June, matching the average over the past year.

Credit Access

“Access to affordable credit continues to hamper young, prospective first-time buyers,” Steve Brown, co-owner of Irongate Inc., NAR president and a Realtor in Dayton, Ohio, said in a statement.

The number of existing properties on the market rose 6.5 percent to 2.3 million in June from a month earlier, the most since August 2012. At the current pace, it would take 5.5 months to sell those houses, the same as in May. The inventory of unsold homes was up from 2.6 million a year earlier.

The median time a home was on the market decreased in June to 44 days from 47 days in the prior month. Forty-two percent of homes sold in June were on the market for less than a month.

“Things are flying very fast,” Yun said. Sales have seen a “nice jump in the last three months but it is underperforming in my view” compared with the fundamentals, he said.

By Region

The existing home-sales advance was led by a 6.2 percent gain in the Midwest, followed by a 3.2 percent increase in the Northeast. Purchases rose 2.7 percent in the West and 0.5 percent in the South.

Purchases of single-family homes increased 2.5 percent to an annual rate of 4.43 million, the report showed. The sales pace of multifamily properties including condominiums climbed 3.4 percent to 610,000 in June, also the highest since October.

Cash transactions accounted for about 32 percent of all purchases in June, according to the report. Investors made up 16 percent of purchases.

Sales of distressed property, including foreclosures, accounted for 11 percent of the total last month, matching the lowest share since October 2008.

Existing-home sales, which are tabulated when a purchase contract closes, are recovering from a 13-year low of 4.11 million in 2008 after reaching a record 7.08 million in 2005. They climbed to 5.09 million for all of 2013.

The housing market continues to face hurdles to its recovery — from shortages in construction and labor to mortgage rates that remain elevated compared with early 2013.

The pace of home construction slumped 9.3 percent to an 893,000 annualized rate from a 985,000 pace in May that was weaker than initially estimated, figures from the Commerce Department showed last week.

Mortgage Rates

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.13 percent in the week ended July 17, according to Freddie Mac in McLean, Virginia. While down from 4.53 percent at the start of the year, it’s higher than the 3.35 percent in May 2013.

At the same time, homebuilders are optimistic the market. A report last week showed confidence among homebuilders rose in July to the highest level in six months. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo sentiment measure climbed to 53 from 49 in June, the Washington-based group reported. Readings above 50 mean more respondents said conditions were “good.”

More Paint

Sherwin-Williams Co. (SHW), the largest U.S. paint retailer, is among companies seeing a boost as homeowners remodel and redecorate their homes. The Cleveland, Ohio-based company reported sales and income that beat analysts’ projections and raised its earnings estimate for the year as customers bought more paint.

“If you look at the quality of the existing-home transactions that are occurring now versus a year or two years ago, there’s a far lower percentage of those transactions that are distressed or foreclosure type sales,” Robert Wells, senior vice president of corporate communications, said on a July 17 earnings call. “The owner-occupant selling to a new owner-occupant is the transaction that generates the more painting activity. We think we’re benefiting from that shift.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Stilwell in Washington at vstilwell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Carlos Torres at ctorres2@bloomberg.net Vince Golle

US home sales increase 2.6 per cent in June to 5.04 million, fastest pace in 8 months

WASHINGTON – Sales of previously owned homes rose for a third straight month in June, pushing activity to the highest level in eight months and providing evidence that housing is regaining lost momentum.

The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that sales of existing homes increased 2.6 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million homes. It marked the first time that sales have been above the 5 million-mark since October.

Even with the three months of increases, however, sales were still 2.3 per cent below the sales rate in June of last year.

Sales peaked in July last year and then lost momentum as mortgage rates rose from extremely low levels. Sales were further hurt by an unusually severe winter.

After peaking at 5.38 million units last July, sales had been falling as mortgage rates climbed from historic lows after then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke indicated in June that the central bank could begin trimming its monthly bond purchases later in the year.

The Fed did start reducing the bond purchases in December but mortgage rates have actually retreated as financial markets realized the Fed intended a gradual reduction of the long-interest rate support it has been providing the economy. Rates on 30-year mortgages stood at 4.12 per cent last week.

The median price of a home sold in June was $223,300, up 4.3 per cent from a year ago.

For June, sales were up in every region of the country, led by a 6.2 per cent increase in the Midwest and a 3.2 per cent rise in the Northeast. Sales rose 2.7 per cent in the West and edged up a slight 0.5 per cent in the South.

The percentage of first-time buyers edged up slightly to 28 per cent of sales in June, up from 27 per cent in May and above the recent low of 26 per cent.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors, predicted that the share of first time buyers would keep rising as the labour market keeps improving. But he noted that the level is still well below the 40 per cent of sales that first time buyers normally represent.

The inventory of unsold homes stood at 2.3 million homes at the end of June, up 6.5 per cent from a year ago. That level would represent about 5.5 months of supply at the June sales pace, close to the 6 to 7 months that are considered normal for inventories.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen, delivering the central bank’s twice-a-year economic report to Congress last week, described housing activity this year as disappointing, an indication that the central bank is still concerned about the performance of this key sector of the economy.

Potential buyers have grappled with a limited supply of homes that is driving prices higher. Lending standards have also been tightened in response to the housing boom of the last decade, when financial institutions granted too many mortgages to home buyers who were unable to meet the monthly payments, resulting in millions of foreclosures.

Five years into the recovery from the deep recession that was triggered in part by the collapse in housing, home sales have yet to return to historic averages. The pace for sales this year is below the 5.1 million homes sold last year and the 5.5 million annual sales that would be consistent with a healthy housing market.

June Sales of Existing Homes Reach 8-Month High

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that the seasonally adjusted annual rate of existing home sales in June rose 2.6% to 5.04 million from an upwardly revised total of 4.91 million in May.

Sales are down 2.3% year-over-year for the month. The sales pace is the highest since last October, when the rate hit 5.13 million.

The consensus estimate called for sales to reach 4.99 million, according to a survey of economists by Bloomberg.

Housing inventory rose 2.2% in June to 2.3 million homes, which is equal to a supply of 5.5 months, slightly lower than the 5.6-month supply in May. Unsold inventory is up 6.5% compared with June 2013, when there were 2.16 million existing homes for sale.

ALSO READ: 10 Cities Where Wages Are Soaring

According to the NAR, the national median existing home price in June was $223,300, up 4.3% compared with June 2013. The past June marked the 28th consecutive month of rising home prices.

NAR’s chief economist said:

Inventories are at their highest level in over a year and price gains have slowed to much more welcoming levels in many parts of the country. This bodes well for rising home sales in the upcoming months as consumers are provided with more choices. On the contrary, new home construction needs to rise by at least 50 percent for a complete return to a balanced market because supply shortages — particularly in the West — are still putting upward pressure on prices.

ALSO READ: America’s Worst Companies to Work For

Sales of single-family homes rose 2.5% from May at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.43 million, down 2.9% compared with June a year ago. Sales of multifamily homes increased 3.4% year-over-year at an annual rate of 610,000.

Foreclosed and short sales accounted for 11% of June sales, flat with the May total and down 15% compared with June 2013. Foreclosures sold at an average 20% discount to the June median price, while short sales sold at a discount of 11%.

Existing, non-distressed homes were on the market for an average of 44 days, while foreclosed homes were on the market for an average of 54 days and short sales took a median of 120 days to sell.

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Home sales and prices cool off locally

In June 2013, home sales shot up 50 percent over the prior year to 276, then dropped nearly 2 percent over the next year, while the median sales price remained the same in each of the last two Junes — $178,000.

Other data show mixed results.

The median number days on the market for sold homes rose nearly 18 percent to 74 days, new pending sales dropped 4 percent and the average percent of original list price received showed no improvement — remaining at 93.4 percent.

On the other hand, the average sale price rose nearly 5 percent, from $204,036 to $213,599 following a 27 percent jump in sales in the $300,000 to $400,000 range.

Gary Thomas, president of the Gainesville-Alachua County Association of Realtors, said the housing market seems to be flattening out based on June’s results and a slight annual sales increase and median price drop in May.

“It’s not as robust as we probably thought. I still think it’s healthy,” said Thomas, broker of Re/Max Professionals.

He said he expects more of the same when July’s numbers are released based on conversations with local Realtors.

“In summer we have kind of a doldrum effect. When kids are first out of school, people are out at the beach and not worried about houses,” Thomas said. “We get a little surge before school starts.”

Statewide home sales and prices were up over the year in June while U.S. sales were down for the year — but hit the highest pace since October 2013.

Florida home sales were up nearly 15 percent over June 2013 and the median sale price up more than 5 percent to $185,000 from $175,900.

Florida Realtors Chief Economist John Tuccillo noted in a news release that the strong June report is balanced by a somewhat weaker May, indicating a market that is settling in.

“We are generally seeing slower increases in both sales and prices, and a rising level of inventories. All of this points to a continued steady, manageable growth in the Florida housing market,” he said.

U.S. sales of all housing types was up 2.6 percent over May but down 2.3 percent from a year ago, while single-family home sales were up 2.5 percent for the month and down 2.9 percent for the year, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The median sale price of single-family homes rose 4.5 percent over the year to $224,300.

Both Florida Realtors and NAR news releases noted job growth for improved sales, but NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said stagnant wage growth is leaving a large pool of potential homebuyers on the sidelines.

Alachua County condominium and townhouse sales rose 41 percent to 82 from 58 in June 2013 and the median sale price was up nearly 15 percent to $84,750 from $74,000 a year ago.

Statewide, condo sales rose just over 3 percent for the year and the median sale price was up 8.5 percent to $141,000 from $130,000.