Existing-home sales posted a second month of significant sales gains in July, building on a record 20.7 percent increase in June. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) said sales were at a seasonally adjusted 5.86 million units, a 24.7 percent month-over-month increase from 4.72 million and overturning the June record for monthly gains. Sales are now higher than the previous year by 8.7 percent. Each of the four major regions attained double-digit, month-over-month increases, while the Northeast was the only region to show a year-over-year decline.

The record-setting pace was greater than what were some outsized predictions. Analysts polled by Econoday had projected sales to fall in a range of 4.60 to 5.75 million. The consensus was 5.4 million.

"The housing market is well past the recovery phase and is now booming with higher home sales compared to the pre-pandemic days," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "With the sizable shift in remote work, current homeowners are looking for larger homes and this will lead to a secondary level of demand even into 2021."

Single-family home sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million, a 23.9 percent increase from 4.26 million in June, and up 9.8 percent from one year ago. Existing condominium and co-op sales jumped 31.8 percent to a rate of 580,000 units, essentially the same sales pace as in July 2019.

"Luxury homes in the suburbs are attracting buyers after having lagged the broader market for the past couple of years," Yun said. "Single-family homes are continuing to outperform condominium units, suggesting a preference shift for a larger home, including an extra room for a home office."

The median existing-home price for all housing types in July was $304,100, an annual appreciation of 8.5 percent from the July 2019 median of $280,400, as prices rose in every region. It was the 101st consecutive month of annual gains and the first time ever that the national median has exceeded $300,000. The median existing single-family home price was $307,800, an 8.5 percent annual gain and condo prices grew by 6.4 percent to a median of $270,100.

Inventories continued to tighten. The number of available homes for sale at the end of July was 1.50 million, compared to 1.90 million a year earlier. That inventory is estimated at a 3.1-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 3.9 months in June and 4.2 months in July 2019.

Yun said these tight inventories are having a substantial effect on sales. "The number of new listings is increasing, but they are quickly taken out of the market from heavy buyer competition," he said. "More homes need to be built."

Properties typically remained on the market for 22 days in July, seasonally down from 24 days in June and from 29 days in July 2019. As Yun indicated, 68 percent of homes sold in during the month were on the market for less than a month."

First-time buyers were responsible for 34 percent of sales during the month, a figure that has varied little since the Great Recession, although it was 3 percentage points higher than last July, an unusual deviation. Individual investors or second-home buyers purchased 15 percent of homes sold in July, compared to 9 percent in June and 11 percent in July 2019. Sixteen percent of sales during the month were all-cash, unchanged from June but down from 19 percent the prior July. Less than 1 percent of sales were foreclosures or short sales.

"Homebuyers' eagerness to secure housing has helped rejuvenate our nation's economy despite incredibly difficult circumstances," said NAR President Vince Malta. "Admittedly, we have a way to go toward full recovery, but I have faith in our communities, the real estate industry and in NAR's 1.4 million members, and I know collectively we will continue to mount an impressive recovery."

For the second consecutive month, sales for July increased in every region and median home prices grew in each of the four major regions from one year ago. The Northeast posted the largest monthly increase in sales, a 30.6 percent surge to an annual rate of 640,000. The region, however, was the only one that did not surpass the July 2019 pace. There was a 5.9 percent decline. The median price grew 4.0 percent on an annual basis to $317,800.

Sales in the Midwest were up 27.5 percent from June to an annual rate of 1,390,000 units, an annual increase of 10.3 percent. The median price rose by 8.0 percent to $244,500.

There were 19.4 percent and a 12.6 percent increases in sales in the South for the month and year-over-year, respectively. The median price was $268,500, a 9.9 percent increase from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West increased only fractionally less than those in the Northeast, rising 30.5 percent to a 1,240,000-annual rate. This was 7.8 percent higher year-over-year. The median price was $453,800, 11.3 percent appreciation.