NAR US home sales January

Photo: Randen Pederson/Flickr

Existing home sales in the United States slumped month-to-month in January, but the long-term picture was much more upbeat. According to the latest numbers from the National Association of Realtors, last month’s tally for sales of single-family homes, townhouses, condos and co-ops fell 4.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million. This was the lowest level since May 2014. However, year-over-year sales were actually up 3.2 percent in the first month of the year.

“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,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

“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.”

Prices continued to rise in January with the median sale price for all housing types increasing 6.2 percent, year-over-year, to $199,600. This is the 35th month in a row where the median price recorded a year-over-year price boost.

Other market reports were quite optimistic about the year ahead. The recently released February 2015 US Economic & Housing Market Outlook from Freddie Mac suggested that going into the busy spring season, lower rates will help keep home prices affordable, despite the increases in sale prices.

They even went as far as predicting “lower mortgage rates and a stronger jobs market should help to drive the best year for home sales since 2007.”

For a closer look at the January numbers, here’s how the major regions fared:

Northeast

Sales of existing homes fell six percent to an annual rate of 630,000 in January, a tally that was still 3.3 percent above January 2014 numbers. The median price rose 2.7 percent, year-over-year, to $247,800.

Midwest

In January, home sales declined 2.7 percent to 1.08 million in January. Much like the national figures, sales were still up compared to 2014, with last month’s sales up 0.9 percent above January 2014. The median price in the Midwest also rose, increasing 8.3 percent from last year to $151,300.

South

Sales fell by 4.6 percent to an annual rate of 2.07 million in January. However, it still measured an annual increase of 5.6 percent. The median price was $171,900, up 7.4 percent from the same time last year.

The West

Following the trend set out by the country as a whole as well as the other major regions, existing home sales in the West fell by 7.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.04 million in January, but were still up one percent, year-over-year. The median price in the West was $291,800, a 7.2 percent jump over January 2014.

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