U.S. Existing-Home Sales Edged Up 0.7% in September

By Sharon Nunn and Sarah Chaney Features Dow Jones Newswires

Sales of previously owned homes edged higher in September, reflecting a rebound in home sales in a previously hurricane-ravaged Houston.

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Existing-home sales rose 0.7% from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected a rate of 5.30 million sales in September.

Previously, existing-home sales fell in August to the lowest level in a year, spurred mostly by a sharp drop in home sales in Houston, which was affected by Hurricane Harvey, and a shortage of homes on the market. But in September, Houston's existing-home sales rebounded by 4%, boosting the overall sales figure.

Despite this monthly increase, existing-home sales fell 1.5% in September from a year earlier.

Hurricane Irma hit the Southern and Eastern U.S. in September, impacting housing starts, which fell in September for the fifth time in six months. Irma could drag down October's existing-home sales numbers.

In the wider housing market, inventory has been tight recently--in part because of lackluster home construction--and that has contributed to a run-up in home prices. The median price of homes sold last month rose to $245,100 in September, up 4.2% from a year earlier.

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At the current sales pace, it would take 4.2 months to exhaust the supply of homes on the market. That sales pace was 4.5 months last year, reflecting the tightening housing market.

"[The] hurricane impact appears very short-lived, but we'll wait for the data in Florida," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. "Housing starts are only incrementally slowly rising, but because of the hurricane and the rebuilding efforts there... the construction workers will be rebuilding, and that means less workers available for new home construction. Housing starts may not rise as robustly. The housing shortage can last into the next year."

News Corp, owner of The Wall Street Journal, also operates Realtor.com under license from the National Association of Realtors.

Write to Sharon Nunn at Sharon.Nunn@wsj.com and Sarah Chaney at Sarah.Chaney@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 20, 2017 10:15 ET (14:15 GMT)