A few key points:
1) Existing home sales are counted at the close of escrow, so this report is mostly for contracts signed in March and April – when the economy was mostly shutdown.
Sales NSA for May were below the housing bust low for May. However, there has been a rebound in mortgage purchase applications and regional pending home sales, so we can expect a rebound in existing home sales in June or July.
2) Inventory is very low, and was down 18.8% year-over-year (YoY) in May. This is the lowest level of inventory for May since at least the early 1990s.
3) As usual, housing economist Tom Lawler was much closer to the actual NAR report than the consensus forecast.
This graph shows existing home sales by month for 2019 and 2020.
Note that existing home sales picked up somewhat in the second half of 2019 as interest rates declined.
Even with weak sales in April and May, sales to date are only down about 9.1% compared to the same period in 2019.
Sales NSA in May (372,000) were well below sales last year in April (452,000).
Sales NSA in May were just BELOW the housing bust minimum for May in 2009 (376,000).