Existing-home sales plummeted 4.9% in January to reach a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million – the lowest rate in nine months, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
That compares to an upwardly revised annual rate of about 5.07 million sales in December.
‘January housing data can be volatile because of seasonal influences, but low housing supply and the ongoing rise in home prices above the pace of inflation appeared to slow sales despite interest rates remaining near historic lows,’ explains Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, in a statement, speaking to the ‘disappointing start’ to the new year.
‘Realtors are reporting that low rates are attracting potential buyers, but the lack of new and affordable listings is leading some to delay decisions,’ he adds.
Total housing inventory at the end of January increased 0.5% to 1.87 million existing homes for sale, but was 0.5% lower compared to a year ago, when there were 1.88 million homes for sale. Unsold inventory was at a 4.7-month supply at the current sales pace – up from 4.4 months in December.
The median existing-home price for all housing types in January was $199,600, an increase of 6.2% compared to January 2014.
January marked the 35th consecutive month that existing homes saw year-over-year price gains.
All major regions experienced declines in January, with the Northeast and West seeing the largest.
‘Although sales cooled in January, home prices continued solid year-over-year growth,’ adds Yun. ‘The labor market and economy are markedly improved compared to a year ago, which supports stronger buyer demand. The big test for housing will be the impact on affordability once rates rise.’
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