U.S. Existing Home Sales Show Another Unexpected Increase In January

A report released by the National Association of Realtors on Friday showed another unexpected increase in U.S. existing home sales in the month of January.

NAR said existing home sales rose by 0.6 percent to an annual rate of 6.69 million in January after climbing by 0.9 percent to a revised rate of 6.65 million in December. Compared to the same month a year ago, existing home sales in January were up by 23.7 percent.

The continued growth came as surprise to economists, who had expected existing home sales to tumble by 2.2 percent to a rate of 6.61 million from the 6.76 million originally reported for the previous month.

With another unexpected increase, existing home sales further offset the steep drop seen in November, when sales pulled back sharply off the fourteen-year high set in October.

“Home sales continue to ascend in the first month of the year, as buyers quickly snatched up virtually every new listing coming on the market,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Sales easily could have been even 20% higher if there had been more inventory and more choices.”

The report also said the median existing-home price in January was $303,900, down 1.7 percent from $309,200 in December but up 14.1 percent from $266,300 a year ago.

Meanwhile, NAR said total housing inventory fell by 1.9 percent to 1.04 million units at the end of January from 1.06 million units at the end of December. Housing inventory is down 25.7 percent year-over-year.

The unsold inventory represents 1.9 months of supply at the current sales pace, unchanged from December but down from 3.1 months of supply a year ago.

The report said single-family home sales edged up by 0.2 percent to an annual rate of 5.93 million in January, while existing condominium and co-op sales jumped by 4.1 percent to a rate of 760,000.

“Home sales are continuing to play a part in propping up the economy,” Yun said. “With additional stimulus likely to pass and several vaccines now available, the housing outlook looks solid for this year.”

Next Wednesday, the Commerce Department is scheduled to release a separate report on new home sales in the month of January.

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