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REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey: September 2018 Highlights

The REALTORS® Confidence Index (RCI) survey[1] gathers monthly information from REALTORS® about local real estate market conditions, characteristics of buyers and sellers, and issues affecting homeownership and real estate transactions.[2] This report presents key results about market transactions from September 2018. View and download the full report here.

Market Conditions and Expectations

  • The REALTORS® Buyer Traffic Index registered at 51 (61 in September 2017).[3]
  • The REALTORS® Seller Traffic Index registered at 41 (45 in September 2017).
  • The REALTORS® Confidence Index—SixMonth Outlook Current Conditions registered at 53 for detached single-family, 44 for townhome, and 43 for condominium properties. An index above 50 indicates market conditions are expected to improve.
  • Properties were typically on the market for 32 days (34 days in September 2017).
  • Eighty-one percent of respondents reported that home prices remained constant or rose in September 2018 compared to levels one year ago (85 percent in September 2017).

Characteristics of Buyers and Sellers

  • First-time buyers accounted for 32 percent of sales (29 percent in September 2017).
  • Vacation and investment buyers comprised 13 percent of sales (15 percent in September 2017).
  • Sales of distressed properties (foreclosed or sold as a short sale) accounted for three percent of sales (four percent in September 2017).
  • Cash sales made up 21 percent of sales (20 percent in September 2017).
  • Twenty percent of sellers offered incentives such as providing warranty (9 percent), paying for closing costs (8 percent), undertaking remodeling (3 percent), and providing appliances (1 percent).[4]

Issues Affecting Buyers and Sellers

  • From July–September 2018, 74 percent of contracts settled on time (73 percent in September 2017).
  • Among sales that closed in September 2018, 73 percent had contract contingencies. The most common contingencies pertained to home inspection (55 percent), obtaining financing (42 percent), and getting an acceptable appraisal (42 percent).
  • REALTORS® report “low inventory” and “interest rate” as the major issues affecting transactions in September 2018.

About the RCI Survey

  • The RCI Survey gathers information from REALTORS® about local market conditions based on their client interactions and the characteristics of their most recent sales for the month.
  • The September 2018 survey was sent to 50,000 REALTORS® who were selected from NAR’s 1.3 million members through simple random sampling and to 10,912 respondents in the previous three surveys who provided their email addresses.
  • There were 5,003 respondents to the online survey which ran from October 1-10, 2018. The survey’s overall margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level is one percent. The margins of error for subgroups and sample proportions of below or above 50 percent are larger.
  • NAR weighs the responses by a factor that aligns the sample distribution of responses to the distribution of NAR membership.

The REALTORS® Confidence Index is provided by NAR solely for use as a reference. Resale of any part of this data is prohibited without NAR’s prior written consent. For questions on this report or to purchase the RCI series, please email: Data@realtors.org


[1] Thanks to George Ratiu, Managing Director, Housing and Commercial Research and Gay Cororaton, Research Economist for their data analysis and comments to the RCI Report.

[2] Respondents report on the most recent characteristics of their most recent sale for the month.

[3] An index greater than 50 means more respondents reported conditions as “strong” compared to one year ago than “weak.” An index of 50 indicates a balance of respondents

who viewed conditions as “strong” or “weak.”

[4] The difference in the sum of percentages to the total percentage of sellers who offered incentives is due to rounding.

September 2018 Existing-Home Sales

  • NAR released a summary of existing-home sales data showing that housing market activity this September was down 3.4 percent from last month, and dropped 4.1 percent from last year. September’s existing-home sales reached a 5.15 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, which was the lowest since November 2015 when the index reached 4.78 million.

  • The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $258,100 in September, up 4.2 percent from a year ago. This marks the 79th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

  • Regionally, all four regions showed growth in prices from a year ago, with the West and Northeast both having the biggest advance of 4.1 percent. The South had a gain of 3.0 percent. The Midwest had the smallest gain of 1.9 percent from September 2017.
  • September’s inventory figures are down from last month to 1.88 million homes for sale. Compared with September of 2017, there was a 1.1 percent increase in inventory levels. It will take 4.4 months to move the current level of inventory at the current sales pace. It takes approximately 32 days for a home to go from listing to a contract in the current housing market, down from 34 days a year ago.

  • From August 2018, three of the four regions experienced declines in sales. The South had the biggest decline of 5.4 percent followed by the West with a dip in sales of 3.6 percent. The Northeast had a dip of 2.9 percent. The Midwest region was flat showing no change in sales.
  • All four regions showed declines in sales from a year ago. The West had the biggest drop in sales of 12.2 percent. The Northeast had a decline of 5.6 percent followed by the Midwest with a decline of 1.5 percent. The South had the smallest drop in sales of 0.5 percent. The South led all regions in percentage of national sales, accounting for 41.0 percent of the total, while the Northeast had the smallest share at 13.2 percent.

  • In September, single-family and condominiums sales were both down 3.4 percent compared to last month. Single-family home sales fell 4.0 percent and condominium sales were down 5.0 compared to a year ago. Both single-family and condominiums had an increase in price with single-family up 4.6 percent at $260,500 and condominiums up 1.50 percent at $239,200 from September 2017.

How much of my income goes towards housing?

With rates rising and home price growth starting to slow, I started to consider how much income is used towards housing in this current economic climate. Mortgage rates are trending upwards to near the highs of 2011 at 4.98 percent, home prices are still rising but at a slower pace, and the median income has been steadily rising although an even more modest pace than house prices. These factors go into how much of a person’s income goes towards housing expenditures and whether housing is a burden for potential homebuyers. This blog will highlight some of the factors and show states and regions where housing is less of a financial burden.

Home Price vs Median Family Incomes

Home prices since 2000 started to outpace in comes but started to turn towards the end of 2007, until home prices plummeted during the Great Recession. In 2008, incomes grew making it favorable for potential homeowners to buy a home. It took home prices about 4 years to recover, beginning in 2012. Around 2014 home price growth began to bloom and once again, prices started to outpace incomes. This pace has continued until recently, as home price growth has slowed making owning a home affordable. As of the second quarter of 2018, family incomes have increased by 52 percent since 2000, while housing prices have increased by 95 percent, or nearly doubled the level in 2000.

Payment to Income and Mortgage Rates

Let us look at the amount of money homeowners had to commit from their income to be able to afford a home. In 2000, when interest rates were 7.90 percent, homeowners had to spend about 19.6 percent of their income to be able to afford a home. In 2006 when rates were around 6.50 percent, homeowners had to spend 22 and up to 24 percent of their income on a home. In the wake of the Great Recession in 2009-2010, mortgage rates started to fall, so the share of income that went to paying a mortgage declined. In 2013 when rates were down to 3.47 percent, the mortgage payment on a median priced home was 11 percent of the median family income, putting less pressure on household incomes. Since that time rates have continued to decline, much to the benefit of potential homeowners. Anything above 30 percent is considered burdensome on households, but below that range would be typically affordable. On a regional level, the West requires a higher portion of your income, which has eclipsed the 35 percent mark. The Midwest, being the most affordable region, requires the least percentage of median family incomes. The Midwest started around 15 percent and, at times, dipped below 10 percent and is currently hovering back around 15 percent.

House price to Income Ratio

A ratio between 2.5 and 4 is normal and healthy price to income ratio for the housing market. As of August 2018, the median price of existing homes sold was 3.5 times of the median family income. The Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) produced a map showing the US home price to income ratios. The ratios range from under two to over eight. As the map below illustrates, costal markets have much higher ratios, indicating significantly higher home prices compared with incomes. The West Coast region has affordability issues, with several areas posting ratios above eight, including San Diego, Los Angeles and the San Francisco metropolitan area. Small pockets in the Northeast reach above five, mostly clustered around New York City and Boston. The Miami/ South Florida Region also posts low affordability. In comparison, The Midwest region has ratios in the 2-3 range, in line with historical averages.

Jobs generated vs GDP Growth rate

The Gross domestic product (GDP) has hovered around 3 percent and has had to withstand the tech bubble, wars and several crises. In 2009, both jobs and GDP took a dive but rebounded the following year. GDP and jobs have grown solidly after the Great Recession. Unemployment has been below 6 percent ever since 2014, which is good for economic progress and potential homebuyers.

Even with rising rates and higher home prices, potential homebuyers have plenty of reason to join the market. Real Estate is still affordable in several states and regions. The job market is strong, GDP is at a healthy level and consumer confidence is high. New homes and existing inventory figures are now improving, although still modestly, but the increase in inventory is helping tame price growth.

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Patty Kennedy
Goldstar Realty

114 Frey Street
Ashland City, TN 37015
Phone: (615)406-9494
Email: kennedyp@realtracs.com

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Patty Kennedy   |   615-406-9494   |   kennedyp@realtracs.com
Goldstar Realty   |   114 Frey Street   |   Ashland City, TN 37015
Copyright © 2015. Patty Kennedy, All Rights Reserved