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U.S. Existing Home Sales Unexpectedly Rise 0.4% In January

U.S. Existing Home Sales Unexpectedly Rise 0.4% In January
2/21/2013 10:54 AM ET

After reporting a notable decrease in U.S. existing home sales for the month of December, the National Association of Realtors released a report on Thursday showing that existing home sales saw a modest rebound in January.

NAR said existing home sales rose 0.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million in January after falling 1.2 percent to a downwardly revised 4.90 million in December.

The rebound came as a surprise to economists, who had expected existing home sales to dip to an annual rate of 4.90 million from the 4.94 million originally reported for the previous month.

Noting that tight inventory is a major factor in the market, Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said, "Buyer traffic is continuing to pick up, while seller traffic is holding steady."

"In fact, buyer traffic is 40 percent above a year ago, so there is plenty of demand but insufficient inventory to improve sales more strongly," he added. "We've transitioned into a seller's market in much of the country."

The report showed that total housing inventory fell 4.9 percent to 1.74 million existing homes available for sale at the end of January compared to 1.83 million for sale at the end of December.

The housing inventory level in January represents 4.2 months of supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.5 months in December and the lowest since April of 2005.

NAR said listed inventory is 25.3 percent below a year ago, while raw unsold inventory is at the lowest level since December 1999.

"We expect a seasonal rise of inventory this spring, but it may be insufficient to avoid more frequent incidences of multiple bidding and faster-than-normal price growth," Yun said.

The report said the national median existing home price was $173,600 in January, down 3.7 percent from $180,200 in December but up 12.3 percent from $154,600 in January of 2012.

Single-family home sales increased 0.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.34 million in January, while existing condominium and co-op sales rose 1.8 percent to an annualized pace of 580,000.

Regionally, existing home sales in the Northeast and the Midwest jumped by 4.8 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively. Sales in the South also rose by 1.0 percent, while sales in the West fell by 5.7 percent.

Next Tuesday, the Commerce Department is scheduled to release a separate report on new home sales in the month of January.

by RTT Staff Writer

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