U.S. Median Home Price Over $352K, First-Time Buyers Purchasing at Lowest Level Since 2015

The median price for homes in the U.S. was more than $352,000 last month, a 13.3 percent jump from September of last year, the Associated Press reported.

The boost came as first-time homebuyers bought at the lowest level since July of 2015, accounting for 28 percent of all house sales in September, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

The NAR said that the number of previously occupied homes sold rose 7 percent in September compared to August, equating to a seasonally adjusted yearly rate of 6.29 million units, AP reported. While sales saw an acute increase in September, the home-buying fervor that spurred annual increases in median home prices of 20 percent to 25 percent appears to be relaxing.

Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the NAR, said that homes available for purchase are getting fewer multiple offers, while more and more potential buyers are declining to waive their rights for home inspections and appraisals. However, the number of homes on the market is still lower than demand in much of the U.S., maintaining higher prices, according to AP.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

U.S. Home Sales
The median price for homes in the U.S. was more than $353,000 last month, a 13.3 percent jump from September of last year. This is a home sold in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, on September 21, 2021. Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo

Sales were down 2.3 percent compared with September last year, a time when home purchases surged as buyers who had held off during the early months of the pandemic returned in force.

"The increase in sales in the latest month I would attribute to mortgage rates," Yun said. "This autumn season looks to be one of the best autumn home sales seasons in 15 years."

Yun noted that a dip in mortgage rates in August gave buyers urgency to close deals on homes, which translated into the sharp September increase in completed transactions.

While the average rate for a 30-year mortgage remains near historic lows, it has been inching higher since August, when the weekly rate averaged 2.77 percent, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac.

This week, the average rate rose to 3.09 percent, the highest level since April, when it peaked at 3.18 percent. A year ago, the rate averaged 2.8 percent. When mortgage rates rise, it gives would-be homeowners less buying power.

Economists expect mortgage rates to rise up to 4 percent next year as the Federal Reserve takes action to control rising inflation. The central bank is widely expected to announce a timetable for reducing its monthly bond purchases at its policy meeting next month. Those bond purchases have helped keep mortgage rates at ultralow levels for much of the last 18 months.

Homes purchased in cash rose 23 percent in September from the previous month. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, accounted for 13 percent of all home sales last month.

At the end of September, the inventory of unsold homes stood at just 1.27 million homes for sale, down 0.8 percent the previous month and down 13 percent from a year ago. At the current sales pace, that amounts to a 2.4 months' supply, down from 2.7 months a year ago, the NAR said.

Homes continue to sell within days of being put up for sale. Homes typically remained on the market 17 days before getting snapped up last month. That's held steady the past six months. In a market that's more evenly balanced between buyers and sellers, homes typically remain on the market 45 days. All told, 86 percent of homes sold last month were on the market for less than 30 days.

The inventory of homes for sale should begin to improve next year, as builders continue to ramp up construction and the end of mortgage forbearance programs force homeowners in financial straits to put their home up for sale, Yun said.

"The days of inventory being down 20 percent or 25 percent, those days are over," Yun said. "The decline is lessening and soon in 2022 we'll begin to see inventories are higher year-over-year."

Houses For Sale
The National Associated of Realtors said that the number of previously occupied homes sold rose 7 percent in September compared to August, equating to a seasonally adjusted yearly rate of 6.29 million units. Above, a "For Sale by Owner" sign is posted in front of a property in Monterey Park, California, on April 29, 2020. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images