Existing-home sales stepped out to a fast start in 2017, surpassing a recent cyclical high and increasing in January to the fastest pace in almost a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors®. All major regions except for the Midwest saw sales gains last month. Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, expanded 3.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.69 million in January from an upwardly revised 5.51 million in December 2016. January's sales pace is 3.8 percent higher than a year ago (5.48 million) and surpasses November 2016 (5.60 million) as the strongest since February 2007 (5.79 million)
NAR's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, indicated that January's sales increase points to stability among consumers despite a rising interest rate environment. "Much of the country saw robust sales activity last month as strong hiring and improved consumer confidence at the end of last year appear to have sparked considerable interest in buying a home," Yun said.
Housing Data Takeaways
- January's median existing-home price (all housing types) was $228,900, up 7.1 percent from January 2016 ($213,700). January's price bump represents the 59th straight month of year-over-year gains.
- Total US housing inventory at January's end grew 2.4 percent to 1.69 million existing homes available for sale -- but this remains 7.1 percent lower than a year ago (1.82 million) and has dropped for 20 straight months. Nationally, unsold inventory offers a 3.6-month supply at the current sales pace (the same as December 2016).
- First-time buyers generated 33 percent of US sales in January, up from 32 percent in December and one year ago.
- Freddie Mac data shows the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell a bit in January to 4.15 percent from 4.20 percent in December. The average rate across 2016 was 3.65 percent.