February 22, 2013 2:44 am
Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 0.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million in January from a downwardly revised 4.90 million in December, and are 9.1 percent above the 4.51 million-unit pace in January 2012.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said tight inventory is a major factor in the market. "Buyer traffic is continuing to pick up, while seller traffic is holding steady," he said. "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. We've transitioned into a seller's market in much of the country."
Total housing inventory at the end of January fell 4.9 percent to 1.74 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.2-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.5 months in December, and is the lowest housing supply since April 2005 when it was also 4.2 months.
Listed inventory is 25.3 percent below a year ago when there was a 6.2-month supply. Raw unsold inventory is at the lowest level since December 1999 when there were 1.71 million homes on the market.
"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 explained.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.41 percent in January from a record low 3.35 percent in December; it was 3.92 percent in January 2012.
NAR President Gary Thomas said homes are selling faster. "The typical home is selling nearly four weeks faster than it did a year ago," he said. "In this environment, REALTORS® can help buyers strike a balance between moving quickly and protecting their interests, such as making offers contingent upon a satisfactory home inspection and obtaining a loan; of course, a loan pre-qualification may help too."
First-time buyers accounted for 30 percent of purchases in January, unchanged from December; they were 33 percent in January 2012.
All-cash sales were at 28 percent of transactions in January, down from 29 percent in December and 31 percent in January 2012. Investors, who account for most cash sales, purchased 19 percent of homes in January, down from 21 percent in December and 23 percent in January 2012.
Single-family home sales increased 0.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.34 million in January from 4.33 million in December, and are 8.5 percent above the 4.00 million-unit level in January 2012. The median existing single-family home price was $174,100 in January, up 12.6 percent from a year ago.
Published with permission from RISMedia.