The National Association of Realtors reported today that existing home sales for September fell yet again by 3.2 percent at a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.12 million homes sold, lower still than the 5.29 million number from tinvesting in real estatehe previous month and is at the slowest rate since last June.

At the same time, the median sales price of an existing property was $199,500, up 12.8 percent compared to the same time last year. What can real estate investors glean from such numbers?

First, all real estate is local. There are certainly areas that were hit harder than others. Think California, Nevada and Arizona for example. But there are some basic conclusions an investor can reasonably make. Home sales have slowed but it’s really not a blip, as both August and September both showed consecutive declines. There is no doubt the pace is slowing. But if the median price is still climbing, that means there are fewer homes for sale and that includes foreclosures. In once-heavy foreclosure California for example, foreclosures only represented 6.6 percent of total sales in October (1), the lowest since before the housing bubble burst.

There are fewer homes for sale and new home sales have yet to catch up. Real estate investors whose specialty is finding and buying foreclosures, it’s evident there are fewer on the market and the ones that are there are commanding higher prices when compared to just a year ago. Higher prices, reduced inventory and fewer foreclosures will drive the casual real estate investor out of the market. And of course that’s good news for the veteran real estate investor. Getting the casual investor to sit on the sidelines helps to sustain the foreclosure purchase market.

The next major economic report will be released Friday, December 6—the November unemployment report. Remember the partial government shutdown (and who can really forget) and how payroll numbers were likely skewed? The next report should account for any anomalies and a better picture on the jobs front will appear.