Sales of existing homes remained significantly below year-ago levels in January, reaching a seasonally-adjusted rate of 6.46 million units. January sales volume was 4.3 percent below the 6.75 million-unit level reported in January 2006; median prices also dropped 3.1 percent from year-ago levels, the NAR reported. Total housing inventory levels rose 2.9 percent at the end of January to 3.55 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.6-month supply at the current sales pace, unchanged from the revised December level. Inventory peaked at 7.4 months in October. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $210,600 in January, down 3.1 percent from January 2006 when the median was $217,400. NAR chief economist David Lereah said observers shouldn't overreact to January's numbers, and painted the monthly results as evidence of recovery in housing markets across the United States.
"Although we're expecting existing-home sales to gradually rise this year, and buyers are responding to the price correction, some unusually warm weather helped boost sales in January," he said. "On the flip side, the winter storms that disrupted so much of the country in February could negatively impact the housing market. "Although the data is seasonally adjusted, these weather events are unusually large -- many transaction closings were postponed in February, and home shopping was essentially shut down for about a week in many areas," he said. "We shouldn't be surprised to see a near-term sales dip, but that will be followed by a continuing recovery in home sales." NAR President Pat Vredevoogd Combs, from Grand Rapids, Mich., and vice president of Coldwell Banker-AJS-Schmidt, said a broader view shows the housing market stabilizing. "The market is trending up from its low last fall, and that is important in restoring confidence to buyers who've been on the sidelines," said Combs. "Since buyers can find more favorable terms, and they are looking for a place to call home for some years to come, getting into the market now make sense because it's a choice many didn't have during the boom period of bidding wars in much of the country." Existing condominium and cooperative housing sales slipped 0.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 767,000 units in January from a downwardly revised pace of 768,000 in December. Last month's sales activity was 5.7 percent below the 813,000-unit pace in January 2006, the NAR said. The median existing condo price was $222,200 in January, up 0.5 percent from a year ago -- one of the lone bright spots in January's sales numbers. Regionally, existing-home sales in the West rose 5.6 percent to an annual pace of 1.32 million in January but remained 9.6 percent lower than a year ago, while the median price in the West was $321,300, down 4.6 percent from January 2006. Other regions across the United States registered a similar drop in both sales volume and median prices, with the lone exception coming in the Northeast, which saw existing home sales volume increase 5.9 from January 2006 levels. For more information, visit http://www.realtor.org.
Don't subscribe? Be sure to sign up today to get our free email updates delivered direct to your inbox!