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Realtors Say Existing Home Sales Plummeted in January

23 February 2018

Jobs & housing drive the economy, and yesterday we learned that Existing Home Sales fell 3.2% in January, according to NAR.

The housing market is slowing, and pressures will only build as the year goes on. Last month's total existing-home sales, including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, saw the largest annual decline in more than three years. It was the 71st straight month of gains.

The total supply of homes for sale fell to 1.52 million last month, the fewest for any January since records began in 1999.

First-time buyers were 29 percent of sales in January, which is down from 32 percent in December 2017 and 33 percent a year ago. Unsold inventory represents 3.4 months of supply at the current sales pace.

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"The utter lack of sufficient housing supply and its influence on higher home prices muted overall sales activity in much of the USA last month", Yun said.

"It's very clear that too many markets right now are becoming less affordable and desperately need more new listings to calm the speedy price growth", Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the national Realtors, said in a news release.

Buyer demand is stronger than this time previous year in many locales, Yun said.

The numbers were 4.8% down on January 2017 - the biggest fall since August 2014. The average rate for a year ago was 3.99 percent.

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"However, there's hope that the tide is finally turning", added Yun. Inventory is still down 9.5 percent from a year earlier and - according to Zillow data - most of the inventory gains have been among homes priced in the upper third of the market, not entry-level homes. A separate report on January sales of new homes is due out Monday.

"These two factors will hopefully lay the foundation for the building industry to meaningfully ramp up production as this year progresses", Yun said. Would-be buyers were stymied by rising prices and a shortage of homes for sale.

"In fact, the mortgage rate has been greater than five percent in 38 of the last 46 years, so it is unlikely that large numbers of home buyers will be dissuaded by a modest increase in mortgage rates", he says. A six- or seven-month supply is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand.

News Corp, owner of The Wall Street Journal, also operates under license from the National Association of Realtors.

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Distressed sales - foreclosures and short sales - were 5 percent of sales in January, unchanged from December and 7 percent below a year ago.

Realtors Say Existing Home Sales Plummeted in January