But sales are up from one year ago
Existing-home sales declined in January, continuing a fluctuating pattern of monthly increases and declines, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Significant declines in the West region dragged down nationwide numbers, with the other three major U.S. regions reporting marginal – or no – changes last month.
Total existing-home sales,1 https://www.nar.realtor/existing-home-sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, decreased 1.3% from December to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.46 million in January. However, for the second straight month, overall sales substantially increased year-over-year, up 9.6% from a year ago (4.98 million in January 2019).
Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, finds the outlook for 2020 home sales promising despite the drop in January. “Existing-home sales are off to a strong start at 5.46 million.” Yun said. “The trend line for housing starts is increasing and showing steady improvement, which should ultimately lead to more home sales.”
The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in January was $266,300, up 6.8% from January 2019 ($249,400), as prices increased in every region. December’s price increase marks 95 straight months of year-over-year gains. “Mortgage rates have helped with affordability, but it is supply conditions that are driving price growth,” Yun said.
Total housing inventory3 at the end of January totaled 1.42 million units, up 2.2% from December, but down 10.7% from one year ago (1.59 million). The housing inventory level for January is the lowest level since 1999. Unsold inventory sits at a 3.1-month supply at the current sales pace, up from the 3.0-month figure recorded in December and down from the 3.8-month figure recorded in January 2019.
NAR’s latest quarterly report found that an overwhelming majority of metro areas experienced price gains while witnessing very minor increases in inventory in the final quarter of 2019.
Properties typically remained on the market for 43 days in January, seasonally up from 41 days in December, but down from 49 days in January 2019. Forty-two percent of homes sold in January 2020 were on the market for less than a month.
First-time buyers were responsible for 32% of sales in January, up from 31% in December and up from 29% in January 2019. NAR’s 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released in late 20194 – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 33%.
“It is good to see first-time buyers slowly stepping into the market,” Yun said. “The rise in the homeownership rate among the younger adults, under 35, and minority households means an increasing number of Americans can build wealth by owning real estate. Still, in order to further expand opportunities, significantly more inventory and home construction are needed at the affordable price points.”
Individual investors or second-home buyers, who account for many cash sales, purchased 17% of homes in January, equal to December 2019 and up slightly from 16% in January 2019. All-cash sales accounted for 21% of transactions in January, up from 20% in December but down from 23% in January 2019.
Distressed sales3 – foreclosures and short sales – represented 2% of sales in January, unchanged from December 2019 and down from January 2019.
Realtor.com®’s Market Hotness Index, measuring time-on-the-market data and listing views per property, revealed that the hottest metro areas in January were Fort Wayne, Ind.; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.; Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, Calif.; Lafayette-West Lafayette, Ind.; and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate(link is external) for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 3.62% in January, down from 3.72% in December. One year ago, the commitment rate was 4.46%.
“We are hopeful and also confident that home sales will improve this year,” said NAR President Vince Malta, broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco, Calif. “NAR has and will continue to do its part in the industry, reiterating the social and economic benefits of homeownership and advancing conversations surrounding housing affordability concerns.”
Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
Single-family home sales sat at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.85 million in January, down from 4.91 million in December, but up 9.7% from a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $268,600 in January 2020, up 6.9% from January 2019.
Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 610,000 units in January, down 1.6% from December but 8.9% higher than a year ago. The median existing condo price was $248,100 in January, an increase of 5.7% from a year ago.
Compared to last month, January sales increased in the Midwest and the South, while year-over-year sales are up in each of the four regions. Median home prices in all regions increased from one year ago, with the Northeast region showing the strongest price gain.
January 2020 existing-home sales in the Northeast saw no movement, recording an annual rate of 730,000, which is up 7.4% from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $312,100, up 11.5% from January 2019.
Existing-home sales increased 2.4% in the Midwest to an annual rate of 1.29 million, which is up 8.4% from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $200,000, a 5.4% increase from last January.
Existing-home sales in the South grew 0.4% to an annual rate of 2.38 million in January, up 11.7% from a year ago. The median price in the South was $229,900, a 6.3% increase from this time last year.
Existing-home sales in the West fell 9.4% to an annual rate of 1.06 million in January, an 8.2% increase from a year ago. The median price in the West was $393,800, up 5.2% from January 2019.
The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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For local information, please contact the local association of Realtors® for data from local multiple listing services (MLS). Local MLS data is the most accurate source of sales and price information in specific areas, although there may be differences in reporting methodology.
NOTE: NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index for January is scheduled for release on February 27, and Existing-Home Sales for February will be released March 20; release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.
1 Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings from Multiple Listing Services. Changes in sales trends outside of MLSs are not captured in the monthly series. NAR rebenchmarks home sales periodically using other sources to assess overall home sales trends, including sales not reported by MLSs.
Existing-home sales, based on closings, differ from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing-home sales, which account for more than 90% of total home sales, are based on a much larger data sample – about 40% of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.
The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.
Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when monthly collection of condo data began. Prior to this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales prior to 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.
2 The median price is where half sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical of market conditions than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions. The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if additional data is received.
The national median condo/co-op price often is higher than the median single-family home price because condos are concentrated in higher-cost housing markets. However, in a given area, single-family homes typically sell for more than condos as seen in NAR’s quarterly metro area price reports.
3 Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (prior to 1999, single-family sales accounted for more than 90% of transactions and condos were measured only on a quarterly basis).
4 Survey results represent owner-occupants and differ from separately reported monthly findings from NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, which include all types of buyers. Investors are under-represented in the annual study because survey questionnaires are mailed to the addresses of the property purchased and generally are not returned by absentee owners. Results include both new and existing homes.
5 Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), days on market, first-time buyers, all-cash transactions and investors are from a monthly survey for the NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, posted at nar.realtor.