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To Gauge the Pandemic's Effect, Look to Raw Count of Home Sales

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New-Home Sales

To Gauge the Pandemic's Effect, Look to Raw Count of Home Sales


November 5, 2020
Home sold
Photo: Andy Dean

While the seasonally adjusted numbers for home sales are important, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) says raw home sale counts are often more meaningful. On a seasonally adjusted basis, existing home sales increased 21% in September compared to one year ago and new-home sales advanced 32%. NAR also says due to this being such an unprecedented time, raw counts can show the impact of the pandemic more clearly. In September, 560,000 existing-homes sold and new-home sales hit 75,000. These numbers show a 24% jump in existing-home sales compared to a year ago and a 34% jump for new-home sales.

Although both existing and new home sales dropped in the first months of the pandemic, activity ramped up to higher levels than those of a year earlier. 1,717,000 existing homes were sold in the last three months (June-September 2020) compared to 1,522,000 during the same period in 2019. While home sales activity typically slows down in the fall and winter months, that hasn’t been the case for 2020. Strong summer housing market momentum continues in the fall since activity in September was similar to summer levels. In September, 450,000 existing homes are usually sold compared to 560,000 this year. Respectively, new home sales are also running well ahead of last year’s activity. While 54,000 new homes are typically sold in September, 75,000 buyers purchased a new home this year.

What should be expected for home sales in the upcoming months in terms of raw counts?  Independent of headline seasonally adjusted figures, expect busier activity in the next two months than the past year due to the ultra-low mortgage rates. 

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