Plunging home sales could sink recovery

chart_home_prices2.top.gif By Hibah Yousuf, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- With home sales plunging to their lowest level in 15 years, economists warn that a double-dip in housing prices is just around the corner, threatening to further slow the overall recovery.

Existing home sales sank 27.2% in July, twice as much as analysts expected, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.83 million units. Much of that drop is attributed to the end of the $8,000 homebuyer tax credit.

That credit brought buyers out in droves, as they tried to sign home contracts before the April 30 deadline. Now, two months later, sales are 34% below April's tax incentive-induced peak.

"Home sales were eye-wateringly weak in July," said economist Paul Dales of Capital Economics. "It is becoming abundantly clear that the housing market is undermining the already faltering wider economic recovery. With an increasingly inevitable double-dip in housing prices yet to come, things could get a lot worse."

The sales pace of all homes -- single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops -- is at the lowest since NAR began tracking the figure in 1999. Sales of single-family homes, which account for a bulk of the transactions, are at the lowest level since May 1995.

Inventory has also continued to climb, rising 2.5% to 3.98 million existing homes for sale. That represents a 12.5-month supply at the current sales pace, the highest since October 1982 when it stood at 13.8 months. A six-month of supply is considered normal.

The combination of weak demand and glut of homes has put downward pressure on prices.

And as the recession proved, the housing market and the broader economy are closely intertwined. When housing prices collapse, so does the overall wealth and confidence of Americans.

"Falling housing prices strain the overall confidence in the economy and discourage Americans from spending," Dales said. "They also mean that banks lose money on their investments and curtail lending, meaning there is less money out there to invest and boost the economy.

The NAR report showed that the median price of homes sold in July was $182,600, up 0.7% from a year ago. Just under a third of homes sold during the month were distressed properties.

Though prices have yet to fall back, Dales expects they will decline about 5% from current levels over the next six months.

On the bright side, Dales said while a drop prices will put a dent in the economy recovery, it won't lead to another recession.

"The bulk of the downward adjustment in housing prices has been achieved over the last several years, so we're not headed for a complete disaster," said Dales. "We're going to see a double-dip in housing prices, but not a double-dip in the overall economy."

Sales by property and region: Sales of single-family homes sank 27.1% in July compared to the prior month, while condominium and co-op sales tanked 28.1%.

The Midwest fared the worst last month, with sales dropping 35% to an annual pace of 800,000 units in July. that's 33.3% lower than a year earlier.

Resales in the Northwest dropped 29.5% from the previous month to an annual pace of 620,000 units.

They fell by 25% in the West and 22.6% in the South. To top of page


Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.12%4.00%
15 yr fixed3.14%3.00%
5/1 ARM3.25%3.01%
30 yr refi4.17%4.06%
15 yr refi3.21%3.09%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,804.80 26.65 0.15%
Nasdaq 4,765.38 16.98 0.36%
S&P 500 2,070.65 9.42 0.46%
Treasuries 2.18 -0.03 -1.27%
Data as of 4:55pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.62 0.09 0.51%
General Electric Co 25.62 0.48 1.91%
Apple Inc 111.78 -0.87 -0.77%
Intel Corp 36.38 -0.64 -1.73%
Microsoft Corp 47.66 0.14 0.29%
Data as of 4:04pm ET

Sections

While talking about the Sony hack during his end-of-year press conference, President Obama called actor James Franco "James Flacco." More

Investors beware: These 5 global crises are likely to rattle the stock market and world economy. More

Major Hollywood studios led a quiet campaign with state governments to censor Google content online. Now, Google is calling them out on it. More

Unilever sued Hampton Creek over its egg-free mayonnaise spread Just Mayo. But the company behind Best Foods and Hellman's mayonnaise has now dropped the lawsuit. More

The income of the top 1% jumped significantly in 2012, far outpacing inflation. Not only did this group make a larger share of the country's income, their share of total taxes also jumped from 35% to 38%. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.