The Commerce Department reported that sales for the month came in at 553,000 on seasonally adjusted basis. That's 5.5 percent below the downward revised August rate of 585,000 and a 13.2 percent tumble from the 637,000 reported for the same period a year ago.
September represented the worst month since December 2016. The number also was well below the estimate from economists polled by Reuters who were looking for a 1.4 percent drop to 625,000.
The report comes as mortgage rates have been drifting higher, with the most recent average at 4.87 percent, according to Bankrate.com. Housing experts believe a 5 percent average rate could be an inflection point for a market under pressure all year from rising rates.
Despite the big miss in the September numbers, real estate shares were broadly higher in morning trade. Led by real estate investment trusts, the group broadly rose about 0.8 percent on what was otherwise a down day for the stock market.