Despite record unemployment and a sharp decline in the number of homes for sale, both existing and newly built homes reached their highest pace of sales since 2006 in August.

The National Association of Realtors reported that existing-home sales were up 10.5 percent in August 2020 compared to August 2019, rising to an annual rate of 6 million homes sold year-to-date, the highest level since December 2006. Every region saw more existing homes sold in August 2020 compared to July 2020 and to August 2019. Homes typically sold in 22 days in August 2020, down from 31 days in August 2019.

New-home sales also rose sharply in August to their highest level since September 2006. Sales of newly built homes reached an annual rate of 1.01 million in August 2020, 43.2 percent higher than in August 2019, according to the Census Bureau. New-home sales were also up 4.8 percent compared to July 2020.

Low inventory and high prices

While demand for houses is strong despite the coronavirus pandemic, the shortage of homes for sale means that prices are rising rapidly in many markets. The number of existing homes for sale dropped by 18.6 percent in August 2020 compared to August 2019, according to NAR. Inventory of newly built but unsold homes also dropped dramatically by 40 percent compared to August 2019 to the lowest supply since the data has been tracked beginning in 1963.

Realtor.com’s Weekly Housing Report for the week ending Sept. 19 found that nearly 400,000 fewer homes have been listed since the beginning of the pandemic in March compared to that same period in 2019. As a result, homes are selling 12 days faster than in 2019 and prices have accelerated for the 19th week in a row.

For the Washington area, the median listing price was up 9.2 percent for the week ending Sept. 19 compared to that same week in 2019, according to Realtor.com. The number of homes for sale was down 42 percent and homes sold 16 days faster than the previous year.

Nationally, the median existing-home sales price was $310,600 in August, up 11.4 percent compared to August 2019 and the 102nd consecutive month of year-over-year price gains, according to NAR.

Housing market may peak this fall

A new forecast by Zillow’s economists anticipates that sales will peak this fall and then decline gradually throughout 2021, but the number of sales this fall and in 2021 is expected to be consistently higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Zillow’s economists also adjusted their expectations for price increases from a previous forecast and now suggest that home prices will rise 4.8 percent between August 2020 and August 2021.