Existing-home sales, including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, were at an adjusted annual rate of 5.47 million in January – a slight increase of 0.4% compared with 5.45 million in December, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Although small, this increase marks the highest annual rate in six months. Sales are now 11.0% higher than a year ago – the largest year-over-year gain since July 2013.
NAR’s report further notes that subpar supply levels propelled price growth to the fastest increase since last April.
“The housing market has shown promising resilience in recent months, but home prices are still rising too fast because of ongoing supply constraints,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR. “Despite the global economic slowdown, the housing sector continues to recover and will likely help the U.S. economy avoid a recession.”
The median existing-home price for all housing types in January was $213,800, up 8.2% from January 2015. The prior month’s price increase was the largest since April 2015 and marks the 47th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.
Total housing inventory at the end of January increased 3.4% to 1.82 million existing homes but is still 2.2% lower than one year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 4.0-month supply at the current sales pace – up slightly from 3.9 months in December 2015.
“The spring buying season is right around the corner, and current supply levels aren’t even close to what’s needed to accommodate the subsequent growth in housing demand,” says Yun. “Home prices ascending near or above double-digit appreciation aren’t healthy – especially considering the fact that household income and wages are barely rising.”
First-time buyers fell to 32% of sales in January for the second consecutive month and is up from 28% one year ago. First-time buyers in all of 2015 represented an average of 30%, up from 29% in both 2014 and 2013.
About 26% of all transactions in January were all-cash sales – an increase from 24% in December 2015 but a decrease from 27% one year ago.
Individual investors accounted for about 17% of homes in January, up from 15% in December and matching the highest share since last January. About 67% of investors paid cash in January.
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