Note: January 2020 data below are the most recent released by the National Association of Realtors.
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 (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 price for all housing types in December was $266,300, up 6.8% from January 2019 ($249,400), as prices increased in every region. January’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 inventory 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.
Properties typically remained on the market for 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 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 2019 – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 33%.
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.
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate 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.”