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US existing home sales rise for 3rd straight month in November

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Homebuyers are snapping up housing as soon as it becomes available, pushing up prices and draining inventory./AFP
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Dec 23, 2021 - 10:25 AM

WASHINGTON — Even in the face of rising prices and short supply, sales of existing homes in the United States increased for the third consecutive month in November, according to industry data released Wednesday.

Sales jumped 1.9 percent compared to October, to an annual rate of 6.46 million, seasonally adjusted, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said.

Record low mortgage rates have fueled rising sales and driven prices higher, but rates are expected to rise in 2022 as the Federal Reserve moves to get a handle on inflation.

The median existing-home price hit $353,900 last month, up 13.9 percent from the same month of 2020 as prices increased in every region, NAR said. This marks 117 straight months of year-over-year increases, the longest-running streak on record.

“Determined buyers were able to land housing before mortgage rates rise further in the coming months,” NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun said, adding that he does not expect a dramatic increase in borrowing costs.

The hot real estate market has boosted housing costs, for renters and homeowners in recent years but in particular during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Locking in a constant and firm mortgage payment motivated many consumers who grew weary of escalating rents over the last year,” Yun said.

Buyers also are hindered by a shortage of inventory — down 13.3 percent compared to a year ago — which has been exacerbated by supply chain snags that mean building materials are in short supply and cost more, Yun noted.

Joel Kan of the Mortgage Bankers Association said the dynamics in the market, which favor those who snap up available properties quickly, “is impacting prospective first-time buyers.”

“They continued to struggle reaching the market” and represent only a quarter of all homebuyers, he said.

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