U.S. home sales fell unexpectedly in June, posting their third straight monthly decline as a persistent shortage of properties on the market drove house prices to a record high.
The report on Monday from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) added to last week's soft homebuilding data in suggesting that the housing market lagged an apparent acceleration in economic growth in the second quarter.
While supply constraints have accounted for the weak sales streak, there are growing concerns that the higher house prices and rising mortgage rates will cause demand to slow.
"The overall economy is in great shape, but there are a few cracks in the armor," said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania. "The key housing market is suffering from a major case of agita."
Existing home sales slipped 0.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.38 million units last month, the NAR said. May's sales pace was revised down to 5.41 million units from the previously reported 5.43 million units.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast existing home sales gaining 0.5 percent in June. Sales rose in the Northeast and Midwest. They fell in the West, which has seen a sharp rise in prices, and the South, where most of the homes are sold.
Existing home sales, which make up about 90 percent of U.S. home sales, dropped 2.2 percent from a year ago in June. They have declined on a year-over-year basis for four consecutive months and decreased 2.2 percent in the first half of 2018.
Sales are being stymied by an acute shortages of homes on the market. Rising building materials costs as well as shortages of land and labor have left builders unable to bridge the inventory gap, pushing up house prices.
The median house price increased 5.2 percent from a year ago to an all-time high of $276,900 in June. That was the 76th consecutive month of year-on-year price gains.