As usual, housing economist Tom Lawler nailed the NAR report.
I project that May existing home sales as estimated by the National Association of Realtors ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.55 million in May
For existing homes, inventory is still key. I expected some increase in inventory last year, but that didn’t happened. Inventory is still very low and falling year-over-year (down 5.7% year-over-year in May). More inventory would probably mean smaller price increases and slightly higher sales, and less inventory means lower sales and somewhat larger price increases.
Two of the key reasons inventory is low: 1) A large number of single family home and condos were converted to rental units. Last year, housing economist Tom Lawler estimated there were 17.5 million renter occupied single family homes in the U.S., up from 10.7 million in 2000. Many of these houses were purchased by investors, and rents have increased substantially, and the investors are not selling (even though prices have increased too). Most of these rental conversions were at the lower end, and that is limiting the supply for first time buyers. 2) Baby boomers are aging in place (people tend to downsize when they are 75 or 80, in another 10 to 20 years for the boomers). Instead we are seeing a surge in home improvement spending, and this is also limiting supply.
Of course low inventory keeps potential move-up buyers from selling too. If someone looks around for another home, and inventory is lean, they may decide to just stay and upgrade.
The following graph shows existing home sales Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA).
Sales NSA in May (red column) were the highest for May since 2006 (NSA).
This is a solid first five months for 2016.