(Updated with additional data and commentary.)
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Existing-home sales rebounded 10% in September to a better-than-expected seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.53 million units, the National Association of Realtors said Monday morning.
Economists had expected the figure to come in at 4.25 million units, compared with a downwardly revised rate of 4.12 million units sold in August. July's rate of 3.84 million homes sold was a 15-year low.
John Canally, economist for LPL Financial, expected "some kind of pop" in existing-home sales data for September, and pointed out that we are now finally past the bursting of the first-time homebuyers tax credit bubble. "The data now stands on its own, which is good," he said. "There had been a lot of distortion."Despite the better-than-expected rebound, September's existing-home sales data remains 19.1% below year-earlier levels when first-time homebuyers were rushing to take advantage of those federal tax credits. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $171,700 in September, 2.4% below year-earlier prices and lower than $178,600 in August. Distressed homes accounted for 35% of sales in September, compared with 34% in August and 29% in September of last year. NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said the housing market is in the early stages of recovery. "A housing recovery is taking place but will be choppy at times depending on the duration and impact of a foreclosure moratorium. But the overall direction should be a gradual rising trend in home sales with buyers responding to historically low mortgage interest rates and very favorable affordability conditions," he said. Ahead of the report Canally told TheStreet a small increase in existing-home sales would be welcome news but that a sustainable rebound is still a long way away. He said market watchers should pay close attention to home inventories, as well as sales and prices. Existing-home inventories are well off their highs but still very high by historical standards, Canally explained.
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