Home Sales Surged in January

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Home buyers appeared in a rush to lock in mortgage rates ahead of further increases and to take advantage of any housing inventory they could find last month. Existing-home sales climbed 6.7% in January compared to the prior month, led by the strongest gains in the Southern region of the U.S., according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest existing-home sales report.

Sales rose even as housing inventories fell to an all-time low and home prices increased at a much swifter pace, NAR reports.

Existing-home sales—completed transactions for single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops—increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.50 million in January. Sales, however, are down 2.3% compared to a year ago, NAR reports.

“Buyers were likely anticipating further rate increases and locking-in at the low rates, and investors added to overall demand with all-cash offers,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Consequently, housing prices continue to move solidly higher.”

Meanwhile, “the inventories of homes on the market remains woefully depleted, and in fact, is currently at an all-time low,” Yun adds. Homes priced at $500,000 and below are vanishing from the market. Supply is rising at the higher price ranges. “There are more listings at the upper end—homes priced above $500,000—compared to a year ago, which should lead to less hurried decisions by some buyers,” Yun adds. “Clearly, more supply is needed at the lower end of the market in order to achieve more equitable distribution of housing wealth.”

5 Key Housing Indicators

Here’s a closer look at how existing-home sales performed in January, according to NAR’s latest report:

  • Home prices: The median existing-home sales price increased at a stronger pace in January, climbing 15.4% annually to $350,300.
  • Inventories: Total housing inventory at the end of January was 860,000 units, plunging nearly 17% from a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 1.6-month supply at the current sales pace.
  • Days on the market: Seventy-nine percent of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month. Homes are selling faster than last year. Properties typically stayed on the market for 19 days in January, down from 21 days a year ago.
  • First-time home buyers: First-time buyers accounted for 27% of sales in January, down from 33% in January 2021. As home prices increase and mortgage rates rise, first-time buyers could be getting priced out of the market, Yun notes.
  • Investors and second-home buyers: Individual investors or second-home buyers purchased 22% of homes last month, up from 15% a year ago. They tend to account for the largest bulk of cash sales, which accounted for 27% of transactions in January.

Regional Breakdown

The South saw the largest uptick in home sales last month, but all four major regions of the U.S. posted gains. The following are how existing-home sales fared in the main regions of the U.S. in January.

  • South: home sales climbed 9.3% in January compared to the prior month, reaching an annual rate of 2.94 million. That is an increase of 0.3% from a year ago. Median price: $312,400, an 18.7% increase compared to a year ago
  • Midwest: sales increased 4.1% in January compared to the previous month and reached an annual rate of 1.51 million. That is equal to the level a year ago. Median price: $245,900, a 7.8% rise from January 2021
  • Northeast: sales increased 6.8% in January, reaching an annual rate of 780,000. That marks an 8.2% decrease from a year ago. Median price: $382,800, up 6% compared to January 2021
  • West: home sales rose 4.1% and reached an annual rate of 1.27 million in January, down 6.6% compared to a year ago. Median price: $505,800, up 8.8% from January 2021