Existing home sales fell 5.9 percent last month, the lowest level since December 2011 outside of the first pandemic days.

U.S. existing home sales plummeted for a ninth straight month in October as 30-year fixed mortgage rates hit a 20-year high and prices remained elevated, putting homeownership out of reach for many Americans.

Existing home sales fell 5.9 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.43 million units, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. Excluding the plunge during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, this was the lowest level since December 2011.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast home sales to fall to 4.38 million units.

Home resale sales, which account for a large portion of U.S. home sales, fell 28.4 percent year-on-year in October. The report followed Thursday’s news that single-family homes are being built and permits for future construction dropped to the lowest levels since May 2020. The housing stock also declined.

Mortgage rates have risen in response to high inflation, which has forced the Federal Reserve to unleash its fastest rate hike cycle since the 1980s. Fixed for 30 years mortgage rates broke through 7 percent in October for the first time since 2002, according to data from mortgage financing agency Freddie Mac. The rate averaged 6.61 percent in the last week.

Sales of existing homes fell sharply in all four regions.

Despite falling demand, housing supply remains tight, limiting the slowdown in house price inflation.

The median existing home price rose 6.6 percent from a year earlier to $379,100 in October. That marked 128 consecutive months of year-over-year house price increases, the longest record streak on record. There were 1.22 million owner-occupied homes for sale, 0.8 percent less than in September and a year ago.

At the October sales rate, it would take 3.3 months to deplete the current stock of existing homes, compared to 2.4 months a year ago. A supply of four to seven months is seen as a healthy balance between supply and demand.

Properties typically remained on sale for 21 days last month, compared to 19 days in September. Sixty-four percent of homes sold in October 2022 had been on the market for less than a month.

New buyers accounted for 28 percent of purchases, up from 29 percent in September and a year ago. Cash sales made up 26 percent of transactions, up from 24 percent a year ago.

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