February 23rd, 2012 2:50 PM by Eileen Denhard
JanuaryHome Sales Up Again
Existing-home salesrose in January for the third time in the last four months, according to the National Association of Realtors(NAR).
January sales –completed transactions – were up 4.3 percent from December to aseasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.57 million. December’s total wasrevised downward to 4.38 million from 4.61 million. The January 2012 sales pacewas up 0.7 percent from January 2011.
The median price of anexisting-home was $154,700 in January, down 2 percent from January 2011,falling to its lowest level since November 2001. After appearing to stabilizeat low levels in the first half of 2011, prices are dipping again.
According to the NAR, distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales,which sell at deep discounts – accounted for 35 percent of January sales(22 percent were foreclosures and 13 percent were short sales), up from 32percent in December; they were 37 percent in January 2011.
Price recovery dependson a reduction in the number of distressed properties on the market. All cashtransactions, NAR
reported, accountedfor 31 percent of sales.
Total housinginventory at the end of January fell 0.4 percent to 2.31 million existing homesavailable for sale, a 6.1-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a6.4-month supply in December.
The month-monthincrease – 190,000 —was the largest in both numbers and percentagesince last August when sales increased 360,000, a jump of 8.9 percent. Despitethe month-month increase in sales, the January pace was well below thepre-recession sales of 5.06 million existing homes sold and the cyclical peakof 6.49 million in November 2009 when the homebuyer tax credit boosted sales.
Total unsold listedinventory has trended down from a record 4.04 million in July 2007, and is 20.6percent below a year ago.
Regionally,existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 3.4 percent to an annual pace of600,000 in January and are 7.1 percent above a year ago. The median price inthe Northeast was $225,700, 4.2 percent below January 2011.
Existing-home sales inthe Midwest increased 1.0 percent in Decemberto 980,000, 3.2 percent higher than January 2011. The median price in the Midwest was $122,000, down 3.9 percent from a year ago.
In the South,existing-home sales rose 3.5 percent to 1.76 million in January, unchanged froma year ago. The median price in the South was $134,800, 0.3 percent belowJanuary 2011.
Existing-home sales inthe West jumped 8.8 percent to an annual pace of 1.23 million in January butare 3.1 percent below a spike in January 2011. The median price in the West was$187,100, down 1.8 percent from a year ago.