Sales of existing homes fall 1.9 percent in September

"Expected rising mortgage interest rates will further lower affordability in upcoming months."

Next month's data might reflect delays created by the 16-day government shutdown, which ended last week. 

The average rate on a 30-year fixed rate loan rose to 4.49 percent in September, from 4.46 percent in August, and is the highest since July 2011, when it was 4.55 percent. The rate was 3.47 percent in September 2012, according to Freddie Mac.

The median existing-home price was $199,200 in September, up 11.7 percent from the same month a year ago.

This is the 10th consecutive month of double-digit year-over-year increases.

Distressed homes — foreclosures and short sales — accounted for 14 percent of September sales, up from 12 percent in August, which was the lowest share since monthly tracking began in October 2008 and were about half of 24 percent in September 2012.

The strongest areas for price increases over the past 12 months were in Detroit (44.6 percent), Las Vegas (30.7) and Sacramento (28.9).

Total housing inventory at the end of September was unchanged at 2.21 million, representing a five-month supply.

"Just one impact of the recent government shutdown, delays in tax transcripts needed for approval of mortgage loans, put a monkey wrench in the transaction process and could negatively impact sales closings in next month’s report,” said NAR President Gary Thomas, broker-owner of Evergreen Realty in Villa Park, Calif. 

Thomas said flood insurance also is a concern. 

About 10 percent of transactions in September were in flood zones, and that 10 percent of those transactions were delayed or canceled because of concerns over rising insurance rates. 

Higher flood insurance rates went into effect Oct. 1, and could slow sales in flood zones.

The median time on market for all homes was 50 days in September, up from 43 days in August, but much faster than the 70 days on market in September 2012. 

First-time buyers accounted for 28 percent of purchases in September, unchanged from August, but down from 32 percent in September 2012.

All-cash sales comprised 33 percent of transactions in September. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 19 percent of homes in September, up from 17 percent in August.

Single-family home sales slipped 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million in September from 4.75 million in August, but are 10.9 percent above the pace a year ago. 

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 2.8 percent, were down 5.3 percent in the Midwest and dropped 1.4 percent in the South. 

Existing-home sales in the West rose 1.6 percent.