The National Association of Realtors just released its existing home sales numbers for June and the housing market looks mixed.
For the month, housing sales fell by a substantial amount — 5.1%. The good news is that, at 5.27 million U.S. homes entering into purchase contracts in May (down from 5.66 million in May), the housing market is 9.8% higher than the 4.89 million home sales pace we saw back in June 2009.
But there is a catch in the June numbers. With the $8,000 new homeowners tax credit extended until September (for homes purchased but not legally closed with a contract) we’re still seeing artificially high numbers as many homebuyers who got the tax credit closed their homes in June. Expect to see less and less of those buyers as we draw closer to September, when the well runs dry for homebuyers using the tax credit.
Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, says, “June home sales still reflect a tax credit impact with some sales not closed due to delays, which will show up in the next two months." Of course, left unsaid is that after those two months are up, the market will no longer get that shot in the arm from credit-happy homebuyers.
Adds Yun: “Broadly speaking, sales closed after the home buyer tax credit will be significantly lower compared to the credit-induced spring surge. Only when jobs are created at a sufficient pace will home sales return to sustainable healthy levels.”
The end of the tax credit fits a recurring pattern for the U.S. economy — for every one step we seem to step forward, we wind up taking two steps backwards as the economy just refuses to cooperate with any positive news. The latest batch includes a lousy consumer confidence number from Citi (Stock Quote: C) and Hart Research, with about two-thirds of Americans (62%) saying the economy has not hit bottom yet.
As the Citi survey points out, that 62% number is a three-point decline from March, and takes us all the way back to consumer confidence levels last seen in September 2009 (the Citi/Hart survey number back then was 63%).