Last month, US home sales dropped to the lowest level tracked in over a year and a half, and changes to the lending process likely played a part, says a trade group representing realtors.
Total existing American home sales, which cover single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops, tumbled 10.5 percent from October, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Meanwhile, as of early October, consumers now have three days to review mortgage paperwork received from lenders in what has been dubbed the Know Before You Owe initiative.
NAR sees a potential connection between this development and the drop in month-over-month sales activity, the largest witnessed since July 2010 when sales plummeted 22.5 percent.
“It’s possible the longer timeframes pushed a latter portion of would-be November transactions into December,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, in a statement.
As these delayed deals eventually close, Yun noted home sales could be on the upswing in December. “As long as closing timeframes don’t rise even further, it’s likely more sales will register to this month’s total, and November’s large dip will be more of an outlier,” he added.
Recent lending-process changes, which also include streamlined paperwork — several forms have been replaced with two, a loan estimate and a loan disclosure — were implemented by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency, as part of reforms to Wall Street known as the Dodd-Frank Act.
In the wake of these Dodd-Frank Act measures, November’s existing home sales sunk to a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 4.76 million, a further drop from October’s downwardly revised 5.32 million units. The SAAR measures what home sales in a year would total if a given month’s activity persisted for a 12-month period.
The decline put the rate of home sales activity last month 3.8 percent lower than it was in November 2014, marking the first year-over-year drop since September 2014.
While single-family home sales were down 12.1 percent month-over-month in November, condo and co-op activity actually inched upwards 1.7 percent.
Beyond rule changes, Yun outlined other factors pushing overall home sales activity down. “Sparse inventory and affordability issues continue to impede a large pool of buyers’ ability to buy, which is holding back sales,” he said in a statement.
“However, signed contracts have remained mostly steady in recent months, and properties sold faster in November,” added Yun. “Therefore it’s highly possible the stark sales decline wasn’t because of sudden, withering demand.”