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NAR: Jan. Existing Home Sales Surge 6.7%

Pressured by a fear of rising interest rates, investors and families rushed to buy homes in Jan. as listings remained tight and prices rose 15.4% year-to-year.

WASHINGTON – Existing-home sales rose notably higher in January, following a decline the month before, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

Month-over-month, each of the four major U.S. regions included in NAR’s monthly report saw increased sales, though activity year-over-year was mixed: Two regions reported sagging sales, another watched sales increase and a fourth region remained flat.

Total existing-home sales – completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – climbed 6.7% from December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.50 million in January. Year-over-year, sales fell 2.3% (6.65 million in January 2021).

“Buyers were likely anticipating further rate increases and locking-in at the low rates, and investors added to overall demand with all-cash offers,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Consequently, housing prices continue to move solidly higher.”

Total housing inventory at the end of January was 860,000 units, down 2.3% from December and down 16.5% year-to-year. Unsold inventory sits at a 1.6-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 1.7 months in December and 1.9 months in January 2021.

“The inventory of homes on the market remains woefully depleted, and in fact, is currently at an all-time low,” Yun adds.

According to Yun, homes priced at $500,000 and below are disappearing, while supply has risen at higher price ranges. He says those increases will continue to shift the mix of buyers toward high-income consumers.

“There are more listings at the upper end – homes priced above $500,000 – compared to a year ago, which should lead to less hurried decisions by some buyers,” Yun says. “Clearly, more supply is needed at the lower-end of the market in order to achieve more equitable distribution of housing wealth.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in January was $350,300, up 15.4% from January 2021 ($303,600), with prices higher in each of the four regions. January marks 119 consecutive months of year-over-year increases – the longest-running streak on record.

Properties typically remained on the market for 19 days in January, equal to days on market for December and down from 21 days in January 2021. Four out of five homes (79%) sold in January were on the market for less than a month.

First-time buyers were responsible for 27% of sales in January, down from 30% in December and down from 33% in January 2021.

Yun says that anticipated increases in mortgage rates will be problematic for at least two market segments.

“First, some moderate-income buyers who barely qualified for a mortgage when interest rates were lower will now be unable to afford a mortgage,” he says. “Second, consumers in expensive markets, such as California and the New York City metro area, will feel the sting of nearly an additional $500 to $1000 in monthly payments due to rising rates.”

Individual investors or second-home buyers, who make up many cash sales, purchased 22% of homes in January, up from 17% in December and 15% in January 2021. All-cash sales accounted for 27% of transactions in January, up from 23% in December and from 19% from January 2021.

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – represented less than 1% of sales in January, equal to the percentage seen in both December and January 2021.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 3.45% in January, up from 3.10% in December. The average commitment rate across all of 2021 was 2.96%.

Single-family and condo/co-op sales: Single-family home sales jumped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.76 million in January, up 6.5% from 5.41 million in December and down 2.4% from one year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $357,100 in January, up 15.9% year-to-year.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 740,000 units in January, up 8.8% from 680,000 in December and down 1.3% from one year ago. The median existing condo price was $297,800 in January, an annual increase of 10.8%.

“The market is still thriving as an abundance of home sales took place in January,” says NAR President Leslie Rouda Smith. “We will continue to beat the drum for more inventory, which will give buyers additional options and also help alleviate increasing costs.”

January regional breakdown: Existing-home sales in the Northeast grew 6.8%, posting an annual rate of 780,000, an 8.2% decline from January 2021. The median price in the Northeast was $382,800, up 6.0% year-to-year.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 4.1% from the prior month to an annual rate of 1,510,000, equal to the level seen a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $245,900, a 7.8% rise from January 2021.

Existing-home sales in the South – the region that includes Florida – jumped 9.3% from the prior month, for an annual rate of 2,940,000 – a gain of 0.3% from one year ago. The median price in the South was $312,400, an 18.7% surge from one year prior.

For the fifth straight month, the South saw the highest pace of price appreciation.

“The migration to the Southern states is clearly getting reflected in higher home sales and fast rising home prices compared to other regions,” Yun says.

Existing-home sales in the West increased 4.1% from the previous month, registering an annual rate of 1,270,000 in January, down 6.6% year-to-year. The median price in the West was $505,800, up 8.8% from January 2021.

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