Home Sales Off to Slow Start

Existing home sales were down in January to by 3.2% from December of 2017. That’s the largest drop seen in a month for two full years, according to National Association of Realtors (NAR). The decline was attributed to a notable drop in sales in the Midwest, the region that currently has the most inventory constraints, and in the West.

This is the second month in a row that home sales nationally have dropped. They had already dropped by 4.8% from November to December 2017.

What’s the Regional Breakdown of Home Sales?

Single-family home sales were down in every region in January, but the Northeast fared much better than other parts of the country. Single-family home sales fell by 6.4% in the Midwest with 117 million units sold; by 5.7%in the West with one million units sold; by 2% in the South and by 1.6% in the Northeast.

But compared to a year ago, the number of single-family home sales was down even more significantly in each region this January: by 9.1% in the West; 7.6% in the Northeast; 4.1% in the Midwest and 2% in the South.

However, in comparison with figures from further back in February 2012 when the housing recovery first began, the numbers look much better, with sales in the West down by only 4.8%, while they’re way up in all the other regions. In the South, when compared to February 2012, they are up by 27.7%; in the Northeast by 27.7%; and in the Midwest by 29.6%.

Inventory Grew But Prices Still Hit Record Highs

The number of existing homes for sale grew by 2.3%, with approximately 39,500 more homes available on the market in January than in December. However, December inventory was revised downward by about 2,000 units, accounting for about 5% of the month-over-month increase in inventory.

The inventory of existing homes still remains down by 9.5% lower than it was a year ago, according to Zillow Research, which also reported that the majority of the homes added to the inventory are priced in the upper third of the market, and therefore out of the price range of many buyers.

Despite an increase of homes entering the market, prices still hit record highs in January. The median seasonally adjusted price of existing single-family homes was $255,500, up 1.8% from December 2017 and up by 5.7% over January 2016.

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