Existing home sales grew in January, according to the National Association of REALTORS. Among the four major U.S. regions, sales accelerated in the Midwest, South, and West, and remained steady in the Northeast. Year-over-year, sales improved in the West and decreased in the Northeast, Midwest, and South.

Total existing-home sales1 – completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops – elevated 3.1% from December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.00 million in January. Year-over-year, sales slipped 1.7% (down from 4.07 million in January 2023).

“While home sales remain sizably lower than a couple of years ago, January’s monthly gain is the start of more supply and demand,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a news release. “Listings were modestly higher, and home buyers are taking advantage of lower mortgage rates compared to late last year.”

Total housing inventory2 registered at the end of January was 1.01 million units, up 2.0% from December and 3.1% from one year ago (980,000). Unsold inventory sits at a 3.0-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 3.1 months in December but up from 2.9 months in January 2023.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in January was $379,100, an increase of 5.1% from one year ago ($360,800). All four U.S. regions posted price increases.

“The median home price reached an all-time high for January,” Yun added. “Multiple offers are common on mid-priced homes, and many homes were still sold within a month. The elevated share of cash deals – 32% – indicated a market full of multiple offers and propelled by record-high housing wealth.”

REALTORS Confidence Index

According to the monthly REALTORS® Confidence Index, properties typically remained on the market for 36 days in January, up from 29 days in December and 33 days in January 2023.

First-time buyers were responsible for 28% of sales in January, down from 29% in December and 31% in January 2023. NAR’s 2023 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released in November 20234 – found that the annual share of first-time buyers was 32%.

All-cash sales accounted for 32% of transactions in January, up from 29% in both December and one year ago.

Individual investors or second-home buyers, who make up many cash sales, purchased 17% of homes in January, up from 16% in December and January 2023.

Distressed sales5 – foreclosures and short sales – represented 2% of sales in January, virtually unchanged from last month and the previous year.

Mortgage Rates

According to Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage(link is external) averaged 6.77% as of Feb. 15. That’s up from 6.64% the previous week and 6.32% one year ago.

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales moved higher to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.6 million in January, up 3.4% from 3.48 million in December but down 1.4% from the prior year. The median single-family home price was $383,500 in January, up 5.0% from January 2023.

At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 400,000 units in January, existing condominium and co-op sales were unchanged from last month and down 4.8% from one year ago (420,000 units). The median existing condo price was $339,400 in January, up 5.7% from the previous year ($321,100).

Regional Breakdown

At 480,000 units, existing home sales in the Northeast were unchanged from December but down 5.9% from January 2023. The median price in the Northeast was $434,300, up 10.1% from the prior year.

In the Midwest, existing home sales increased 2.2% from one month ago to an annual rate of 950,000 in January, down 3.1% from last year. The median price in the Midwest was $271,700, up 7.6% from January 2023.

Existing home sales in the South rose 4.0% from December to an annual rate of 1.84 million in January, a decline of 1.6% from the previous year. The median price in the South was $345,100, up 4.1% from one year ago.

In the West, existing home sales elevated 4.3% from a month ago to an annual rate of 730,000 in January and grew 2.8% from one year earlier. The median price in the West was $572,100, up 6.3% from January 2023.

“More listings will help Americans move,” said NAR President Kevin Sears, broker-partner of Sears Real Estate in Springfield, Mass. “That’s why NAR has pushed for the passage of H.R. 1321 – The More Homes on the Market Act – which would lower the tax hit on home sales and bring additional inventory to the market.”

Methodology

1 Existing home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, are based on transaction closings from Multiple Listing Services. Changes in sales trends outside of MLSs are not captured in the monthly series. NAR benchmarks home sales periodically using other sources to assess overall home sales trends, including sales not reported by MLSs.

Existing home sales, based on closings, differ from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing home sales, which account for more than 90% of total home sales, are based on a much larger data sample – about 40% of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.

The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.

Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when the monthly collection of condo data began. Before this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales before 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.

2 Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (before 1999, single-family sales accounted for more than 90% of transactions, and condos were measured only every quarter).

3 The median price is where half sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical of market conditions than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions. The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if additional data is received.

The national median condo/co-op price often is higher than the median single-family home price because condos are concentrated in higher-cost housing markets. However, in a given area, single-family homes typically sell for more than condos as seen in NAR’s quarterly metro area price reports.

4 Survey results represent owner-occupants and differ from separately reported monthly findings from NAR’s REALTORS Confidence Index, which includes all types of buyers. The annual study only represents primary residence purchases and does not include investor and vacation home buyers. Results include both new and existing homes.

5 Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), days on the market, first-time buyers, all-cash transactions, and investors are from a monthly survey for the NAR’s REALTORS Confidence Index, posted at nar. realtor.

Source: NAR