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Sept. 21, 2018, 8:35 a.m. EDT

Existing-home sales hold steady as housing market begins to find some balance

It took homes an average of 29 days to go into contract in August.

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By Andrea Riquier

Bloomberg News/Landov
Potential home buyers leave an open house after touring a home for sale in Manhattan Beach, California.

The numbers: Existing-home sales ran at a seasonally adjusted annual 5.34 million rate in August, unchanged compared to July, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.

What happened: After falling for four straight months, sales of previously-owned homes stabilized in August. Existing-home sales were 1.5% lower than a year ago. And although sales seem to have stagnated in 2018, in the year to date, they’re only 1.2% lower than the same period a year ago, the Realtors said.

The flat reading missed the MarketWatch consensus forecast of a 5.37 million rate.

Sales surged 7.6% in the Northeast, the smallest region surveyed, but decreased 0.4% in the South. In the Midwest, they rose 2.4%, while in the West, the priciest area, they slumped 5.9%

Big picture: The housing market seems to be wobbling toward some equilibrium. “Prices are still rising, rising, rising,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, but at a slightly slower pace, he stressed.

Buyer reluctance may have helped inventory notch its first increase in nearly three years, rising 2.7% compared to a year ago, while price gains moderated to a 4.6% yearly increase. It was the fourth month of sub-5% yearly price growth, and left the national median price at $264,800. At the current pace of sales, it would take 4.3 months to exhaust available supply.

Read : Home Depot’s strong quarter is no accident — Americans can’t buy new homes, so they’re fixing up the ones they’ve got

What they’re saying: “We welcome increased inventory,” Yun said. He characterized the August results as “steady” but noted that the 4.6% annual gain in prices still outpaced wages.

Market reaction: The 10-year Treasury yield /zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD10Y -2.05%   was up slightly in morning trading, hovering near recent highs. U.S. stocks /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.38%   held onto strong gains after the housing data was released.

Also see: Buyers are ‘fatigued,’ ‘burned out,’ but kept house-hunting even in August, real-estate agents say

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Andrea Riquier reports on housing and banking from MarketWatch's New York newsroom. Follow her on Twitter @ARiquier.

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