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Sales of Luxury Homes Soar as Low Rates, Stay-at-Home Shoppers Fuel Market

Sales of high-end homes climbed 41.5% year over year in the third quarter, according to online real estate broker Redfin (NASDAQ:RDFN), the largest year-over-year jump since at least 2013.

In a news release Monday, Redfin said that sales of luxury homes, defined as the top 5% of market values, as well as sales of second- and third-tier houses climbed year over year, while sales in the bottom two buckets fell by 4% each. The median sale price of a top-tier luxury home in the U.S. in the quarter was $862,700, up 6.5% year over year, while the median price of a house in the bottom tier was $90,000.

A for sale sign in front of a house.

Image source: Getty Images.

In a typical downturn, it is the luxury market that takes the biggest hit, but as Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather noted, “This isn’t a normal recession.” Changes in behavior driven by the coronavirus pandemic are pushing more high-end buyers into the market, while keeping first-time buyers away.

“Remote work, record-low mortgage rates, and strong stock prices during the pandemic are allowing America’s wealthy families to gobble up expensive houses with home offices and big backyards in the suburbs,” Fairweather said. “Meanwhile, scores of lower- and middle-class Americans have lost their jobs or are still renting in the city because they’re essential workers and have to commute into work, so they’re unable to reap the benefits of homeownership.”

The number of homes for sale in the luxury bracket climbed 8.4% year over year, while the inventory of homes available for sale in the bottom three tiers fell by 7.9%, 7.6%, and 4.8 %, respectively.

Houses across the spectrum are selling faster than ever, with the median days on the market falling for every price tier.

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August Home Sales Soar to a Record High: 5 Top Housing Picks

The U.S. housing sector is on a roll, with an increasing number of Americans leveraging on the record-low mortgage rates. The latest pending home sales data for August reached the highest level on record as more Americans signed contracts to buy homes in the month, suggesting that the hot U.S. housing market will maintain the strong spell well into fall.

All-Time High Pending Home Sales

The National Association of Realtors or NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index — a forward looking indicator of home sales based on contact signing — soared 8.8% from July to 132.8 in August, hitting a record high, according to the NAR survey since January 2001. Contract signings are 24.2% higher from the year-ago period as well.

It is worth mentioning that August marks the fourth consecutive month of gains as well as the third year-over-year rise since the pandemic hit the housing market hard. All four major U.S. regions notched growth in August, with the West seeing the biggest improvement.

Apart from record pending home sales numbers, there were a couple of indicators showing continued strength in the housing market. Last week, the NAR released data that showed that sales of existing homes rose 2.4% in August from July to its highest level since 2006. Sales were up 10.5% from a year ago and back to pre-COVID-19 levels of early 2020. Also, the Commerce Department’s new home sales increased 4.8% in August from July and a remarkable 43% from August 2019.

Meanwhile, the NAR Housing Market Recovery Index indicated that the greatest recoveries have been recorded in the Seattle, Las Vegas, Boston, Denver and Philadelphia areas.

“Tremendously low mortgage rates – below 3% – have again helped pending home sales climb in August,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. The average U.S. mortgage rate for a

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