Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) — Sales of existing U.S. homes jumped 10 percent in October to the highest level since February 2007 as Americans rushed to take advantage of a tax credit, cheaper properties and lower mortgage rates.
Purchases rose more than forecast to a 6.1 million annual rate from a 5.54 million pace in September, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington. The median sales price decreased 7.1 percent from October 2008.
Stocks extended gains on signs the industry at the center of the deepest recession since the 1930s may contribute to a recovery. The extension of a tax credit originally due to expire Nov. 30 and its expansion beyond first-time buyers may fuel further gains in home sales, helping to overcome the drag from rising foreclosures and unemployment.
“It’s an impressive increase and shows a lot of pent-up demand for housing,” said Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist at Barclays Capital Inc. in New York. “Buyers have enough confidence to take the plunge. The housing market recovery will be a durable one.”
Existing home sales were forecast to rise to a 5.7 million annual rate, according to the median estimate of 66 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 5.2 million to 6 million, after an initially reported 5.57 million rate in September.
Sales of existing single-family homes rose 9.7 percent, the biggest gain since 1983, to an annual rate of 5.33 million. Sales of condos and co-ops increased 13.2 percent to a 770,000 rate.
The share of homes sold as foreclosures or otherwise distressed properties rose to 30 percent from 29 percent in September, NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a press conference today.
Sales of previously owned homes, which make up more than 90 percent of the market, are compiled from contract closings and may reflect purchases agreed upon weeks or months earlier. Many economists consider new-home sales, recorded when a contract is signed, a more timely barometer.
Sales and construction may get another boost after President Barack Obama on Nov. 6 extended the incentive until April 30. Earlier, buyers had to close the transaction by Nov. 30 to be eligible. The government also expanded the program to include some current owners.
Sales had reached a 4.49 million pace in January, their lowest level since comparable records began in 1999.
Purchases of existing homes rose 23.5 percent in October compared with a year earlier. The median price fell 7.1 percent from a year earlier, to $173,100.