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Why Did Home Sales Drop So Dramatically Last Month?

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Why Did Home Sales Drop So Dramatically Last Month? | Keeping Current Matters

Yesterday, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released their latest Existing Home Sales Report which covered sales in November. The report revealed that sales:

“…fell 10.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.76 million in November (lowest since April 2014 at 4.75 million)…”

That revelation gave birth to a series of industry articles, some of which quoted pundits questioning whether the housing market was slowing. In actuality, there is one rather simple explanation to much of the falloff in sales last month. It is likely the implementation of the “Know Before You Owe” mortgage rule, commonly known as the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) rule, which went into effect on October 3. These regulations caused house closings to be delayed by an extra three days in November as shown in the graph below.

Average Days To Close | Keeping Current Matters

Three days might sound like a minimal difference. However, since there are only approximately 20 days in a month that a closing would normally take place (Mondays through Fridays), losing three days constitutes well over 10% of all closings. These sales are not lost. They are just moved into the next month’s numbers. In a DS News article on the subject yesterday, EVP Rick Sharga explained:

“The most likely cause for the weak sales numbers is a delay in processing loans due to the new TRID mortgage requirements imposed by the CFPB. This is the biggest change in mortgage document processing in many years, and there have been numerous reports within the industry of problems implementing the process and the new documentation that comes with it.”

So how is the housing market actually doing?

A better way to look at how well the housing market is doing is to look at the Foot Traffic Report from NAR which quantifies the number of prospective buyers that are actively looking for a home at the current time:

Foot Traffic Growing | Keeping Current Matters

We can see immediately that demand to buy single family homes is increasing over the last few months - not decreasing.

Bottom Line

No matter what last month’s sales numbers show, the housing market is still doing well as demand remains strong.

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