Existing Home Sales Rise Slightly, Prices Follow

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The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that the seasonally adjusted annual rate of existing home sales in January rose 0.4% to 4.92 million from a downwardly revised total of 4.9 million in December. Sales are up 9.1% year-over-year for the month of January.

Existing home sales were slightly above the consensus estimate of 4.9 million on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

Housing inventory continues to fall. In January, the decrease came to 4.9%, a supply of 4.2 months, compared with December’s 4.5 month supply. Inventories are now equal to supply in April 2005. Listed inventory is down 25.3% year-over-year, and raw unsold inventory totals 1.71 million homes, the lowest level since 1999.

NAR’s chief economist said:

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

According to the NAR, the national median existing home price in December was $173,600, up 12.3% compared with January 2012, and the eleventh consecutive month to see a price gain.

Foreclosed and short sales accounted for 23% of January sales, down from 24% in December, and below the 35% share in January 2012. Foreclosures sold at an average 20% discount to the December median price, while short sales sold at a discount of 12%.

The low inventory continues to boost prices and that situation could continue until the spring selling season kicks off late next month.