Monday, August 27, 2007

Inexistent sales of existing homes

Forgive the exageration, but no amount of NAR (National Association of Realtors) spin could soften the grim existing home sales numbers published today. In July, sales fell 9% year-on-year, couples with a 0.6% fall in the median price of homes sold and a rise in unsold home inventories to 9.6 months supply (compared to 7.3 months in July 2006). Notwithstanding, these numbers were in line with market expectations.

To give some perspective, here's the annual series of existing home sales:

Clearly, this series has seen extraordinary growth, expanding at an annual clip of nearly 3% since 1987, far above population growth. How sustainable is this? I don't have a good answer, but a good starting point is adjusting those sales by population growth (existing homes sold per 1,000 persons).

Taking the latest figure, sales per 1,000 persons stand at 19. If they fall closer to the 14-15 level seen in the early 1990's, sales could still fall another 20% or so (maybe the equilibrium level is higher due to demographic and income factors, but there's bound to be an undershoot and this was another period with soft market conditions).

This ain't over yet.