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Expectations for a stronger housing market in October fell short. Pending homes sales, a measure of signed contracts to buy existing homes, fell 2.6 percent compared with September, according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales were down a steeper 6.7 percent compared with October 2017. That makes the 10th straight month of annual declines.
This follows another disappointing report on sales of newly built homes in October, which also measure signed contracts. They fell 12 percent annually, according to the U.S. Census. Experts blame the drop on weakening affordability across the nation's local markets.
"The recent rise in mortgage rates have reduced the pool of eligible homebuyers," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors in a release.
The same thing happened after rates jumped in 2013, following the so-called taper tantrum, when the Federal Reserve indicated it would reduce the amount of money it was putting into the economy. Mortgage rates surged, but then fell back again, and home sales recovered.
"But this time, interests rates are not going down, in fact, they are probably going to increase even further," added Yun.
The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage is now about a full percentage point higher than it was a year ago, hovering around 5 percent.
Home sales today are at the level they were in 2000, but interest rates are still lower than they were then. The weakness is not just rates, but high home prices. Home values surged dramatically in the last two years, as demand outpaced supply, especially on the lower end of the market.
While all regions saw a decline, pending sales in the West fell furthest, down 8.9 percent for the month and down 15.3 percent compared with a year ago. Sales in the Northeast rose 0.7 percent for the month and were 2.9 percent lower annually. In the Midwest, sales fell 1.8 percent monthly and 4.9 percent annually. Sales in the South were 1.1 percent lower monthly and 4.6 percent lower annually.
One bright spot in the market is an increase in supply, especially in markets where supply had been tightest and demand highest. Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego saw some of the largest increases in listings in October, compared with a year ago, according to Realtor.com.