January Existing-Home Sales Ease

February 28, 2006

WASHINGTON – Sales of existing homes were down in January while home prices continued to appreciate at double-digit rates, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Total existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – declined 2.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 6.56 million units in January from an upwardly revised pace of 6.75 million in December. Sales were 5.2 percent below the 6.92 million-unit level in January 2005.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said sales are tracking the trend in the association’s Pending Home Sales Index. “Our leading indicator, based on pending sales, has been trending down since hitting a record last August,” he said. “In the wake of interest rates peaking in November, I expect we are in a bit of a trough that may be followed by a modest rise and then a general plateau in the level of sales activity. Existing-home sales should stay below the record levels experienced over the last two years, but they’ll maintain a historically high pace.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 6.15 percent in January, down from 6.27 percent in December; the rate was 5.71 percent in January 2005. In November, the 6.33 percent fixed rate was the highest in over three years.

The national median existing-home price2 for all housing types was $211,000 in January, up 11.6 percent from January 2005 when the median was $189,000. The median is a typical market price where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

NAR President Thomas M. Stevens from Vienna, Va., said home prices continue to show the long-term effects of tight supply. “Although housing inventory levels have been improving, it is far from being a buyer’s market in most of the country and we see the momentum of double-digit appreciation being sustained in home prices,” said Stevens, senior vice president of NRT Inc. “Even when home sales slow, they still supply solid returns. The longer you own, the bigger the gain.”

View Existing Home Sales Data

Total housing inventory levels rose 2.4 percent at the end of January to 2.91 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.3-month supply at the current sales pace.

Single-family home sales dipped 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.77 million in January from an upwardly revised 5.86 million in December, and were 4.8 percent lower than the 6.06 million-unit pace in January 2005. The median existing single-family home price was $210,500 in January, up 13.1 percent from a year earlier.

Existing condominium and cooperative housing sales declined 10.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 791,000 units in January from an upwardly revised level of 885,000 in December. Last month’s sales activity was 7.8 percent below the 858,000-unit pace in January 2005. The median existing condo price3 was $216,900 in January, up 5.5 percent from a year ago.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the South rose 2.6 percent in January to a level of 2.75 million, and were 1.9 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the South was $178,000, up 5.3 percent from January 2005.

Total existing-home sales in the West declined 3.5 percent to a pace of 1.37 million in January, and were 14.4 percent below January 2005. The median existing-home price in the West was $310,000, up 11.5 percent from a year ago.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales dropped 7.7 percent to an annual pace of 1.44 million in January, and were 3.4 percent below a year earlier. The median price in the Midwest was $167,000, up 12.1 percent from January 2005.

Existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 10.0 percent to annual sales rate of 990,000 units in January, and were 13.2 percent lower than January 2005. The median price in the Northeast was $253,000, which is 9.5 percent higher than a year ago.

Source: The National Association of Realtors

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.