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New Home Sales Drop in September, Gold Prices Rise

Sales of new single-family homes fell -0.7% in September with shortages of affordable homes still pressuring the market. Low inventory and affordability are persist problems despite a drop in prices representing the largest monthly decrease in 5 years.

Key Takeaways

  • New home sales fell -0.7% to an annual rate of 701,000 in September, in line with expectations.
  • August’s pace of sales was revised downward from 713,000 to 706,000.
  • Sales are volatile on a monthly basis, and are still up 15.5% annually.

New homes sales fell in all areas but the Midwest. The South, where most houses are usually sold, dipped -0.2% last month, while sales fell in the West by -3.8% and the Northeast by -2.8%. Sales spiked 6.8% in the Midwest. Sales of pre-owned homes fell last month as well, particularly sales of lower-priced homes.

New home sales, which amounts to 11.5% of all housing market sales, fell slightly in September, although remain up on an annual basis. However, the lack of activity despite lower interest rates and prices is concerning. The median new house price dropped -8.8% to $299,400 in September 2019 compared to September 2018. Prices were also down -7.9% monthly, the largest drop since September 2014.

Affordability

The Federal Reserve has lowered borrowing costs twice this year after no rate cuts were implemented in over a decade. The new monetary policy aims to hedge against recession due to the negative impacts of the global economic slowdown and the trade war with China.

The rate of 30-year fixed mortgages is also down from its peak in November, dropping over 125 basis points to 3.69% according to mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac. It is expected that lower rates will stimulate the struggling housing market, although this has yet to have the desired effect.

Single-family home construction rose for the fourth month in a row, and building permits also rose. However, a lack of properties for sales along with price growth outpacing wage gains on an annual basis continues to pose a problem to would-be buyers. 321,000 homes were up for sale on the market in September, down -0.6% from August.

At the pace of sales seen in September, the supply of houses on the market would take 5.5 months to clear, blow the 6 – 7 months seen as a healthy balance between supply and demand. 65% of houses sold last month were under construction or yet to be built.

Market Reaction

Gold prices have continued to climb following the release of the news, breaking resistance at $1,495 and continuing past the $1,500 mark. Spot gold last traded at $1,502.23/oz, up 0.83% on the day with a high of $1,502.84/oz and a low of $1,488.38/oz.