WASHINGTON — U.S. sales of previously occupied homes slipped in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.08 million but remain near a 3½-year high.
The National Association of Realtors said Monday that sales fell 1.2 percent last month from an annual rate of 5.14 million in May. The group revised down May’s sales, but they were still the highest since November, 2009.
Despite last month’s dip, home sales have surged 15.2 percent from a year ago. Sales have recovered since early last year, buoyed by job gains and low mortgage rates.
Still, mortgage rates have surged in recent weeks over concern that the Federal Reserve could slow its bond-buying programs later this year. The Fed’s bond purchases have helped keep long-term mortgage and other rates low.
In Ohio, sales of all homes were up 1.5 percent from May, according to the Ohio Association of Realtors.
The total of 13,019 was up 15.5 percent from June, 2012.
For the year, sales in Ohio are up 15.8 percent.
The Toledo Association of Realtors announced earlier this month that sales in the area were up 9 percent over the same month last year.
Nationally, higher mortgage rates slowed sales last month of higher-priced homes in states such as California and New York, the Realtors group said.
The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage leapt to 4.46 percent by the end of June from 3.81 percent at the end of May. The rate was 4.37 percent last week.
That rate increase could hamper sales in coming months, economists said. But most expect housing to continue to recover, though at a slower pace.
“There’s little doubt the housing market slowed in the summer as mortgage rates rose,” Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG LLC, an institutional brokerage, said in a note to clients. “Housing is still expected to grow and contribute to economic output. It just may not be at the pace we’ve seen of late.”
Sales of previously occupied homes in June reflect contracts that were mostly signed in April and May, when mortgage rates were lower. Rising rates can cause some signed contracts to fall through if buyers no longer qualify for mortgages at higher rates.
The one factor that’s likely most holding back sales is a limited supply of homes available. Though more sellers put their homes on the market in June, the supply remained unusually low — nearly 8 percent less than a year ago.
At the current sales pace, the number of homes for sale would be exhausted in 5.2 months. That’s below the six months’ supply that’s consistent with a healthy housing market.
Another concern is that first-time buyers, who usually drive healthy markets, aren’t participating as much in the current recovery. They made up only 29 percent of buyers in June, below the 40 percent that is typical. Since the housing bubble burst more than six years ago, banks have imposed tighter credit conditions and required larger down payments. That’s made it harder for first-time buyers to qualify for mortgages.
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