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The Secret Life of Existing-Home Sales

by Peter Thomas Ricci

July’s existing-home sales data looked pretty positive, but scratching beneath the surface reveals a different perspective.

It all seems so nice – in July, existing-home sales rose 2.4 percent from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.15 million, which is the highest pace of 2014; to top it off, median price was up 4.9 percent year-over-year, marking the 29th straight month of yearly price increases for existing-home sales.

Unfortunately, when you take a peak beneath the surface and study additional numbers from NAR, the story is not so clean cut. Consider:

•Homes priced $100,000 to $250,000 made up 44 percent of all existing-home sales in July, while homes priced $250,000 to $500,000 made up 30 percent and homes priced $1 million and above made up just 2 percent.

•Here’s the kicker, though – sales of homes priced $100,000 to $250,000 were down 3.4 percent year-over-year in July, while sales of homes priced $250,000 to $500,000 were up just 1.1 percent. Homes priced $1 million and above, though, saw sales jump 5.0 percent, the highest of any price bracket.

So as we’ve documented before, a slim portion of the existing-home market is seeing the most sales activity, while the majority is seeing either flat or negative sales. Take a look at our graph below for additional perspective:

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