The re-sale volume of existing homes dropped off 7.2% from December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.05m units in January, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Sales of these housing units — including single-family homes, townhouse and condos — are still 11.5% above the January 2009 level, despite the monthly decline. “Most of the completed deals in January were based on contracts in November and December," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. "People who got into the market after the home buyer tax credit was extended in November have only recently started to offer contracts, so it will take a couple months to close those sales. Still, the latest monthly sales decline is not encouraging, and raises concern about the strength of a recovery.” Unsold housing inventory at the end of January fell 0.5% to 3.27m units available for sale, representing a 7.8-month supply at the current sales pace. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $164,700 in January, unchanged from a year earlier. Distressed homes accounted for 38% of sales last month, and NAR noted they "continue to downwardly distort the median price." NAR also found first-time homebuyers accounted for 40% of purchases in January, down from 43% in December. Investors took 17% of purchases, up from 15% last month. The rest were repeat buyers. Write to Diana Golobay.