Existing-home sales kicked off 2016 on solid footing, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest housing report, released Tuesday. Existing-home sales in January moved to their highest annual rate in six months, while constrained inventory levels also pushed home prices to their fastest increase since last April, according to the report.
All regions in the U.S. saw increases in January sales, except for the West region.
Total existing-home sales, which encompass completed transactions for single-family homes, condos, town homes, and co-ops, inched up slightly by 0.4 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.47 million. Sales are 11 percent higher than a year ago, which is the largest year-over-year increase since July 2013.
“The housing market has shown promising resilience in recent months, but home prices are still rising too fast because of ongoing supply constraints,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Despite the global economic slowdown, the housing sector continues to recover and will likely help the U.S. economy avoid a recession.”
Home Prices and Inventories
Heading into the spring buying season, home prices and the limited number of homes for sale are the top concerns.
“The spring buying season is right around the corner and current supply levels aren’t even close to what’s needed to accommodate the subsequent growth in housing demand,” says Yun. “Home prices ascending near or above double-digit appreciation aren’t healthy, especially considering the fact that household income and wages are barely rising.”
The median existing-home price for all housing types last month was $213,800, up 8.2 percent from a year ago ($197,600). The price increase in January was the largest since April 2015, when home prices moved 8.5 percent higher compared to a year ago.
Meanwhile, total housing inventory at the end of January rose 3.4 percent to 1.82 million existing homes available for sale. Inventories remain 2.2 percent lower than a year ago. At the current pace, unsold inventory is at a four-month supply, up slightly from 3.9 months in December 2015.
In January, properties typically stayed on the market for 64 days, below the 69 days average from January 2015. Thirty-two percent of homes for sale in January sold last month in less than a month.
References: RealtorMag, Daily Real Estate News, NAR