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U.S. Home Sales Go Cold in January, Slowest in 9 Months

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According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), existing-home sales in the U.S. declined in January 2015 to their lowest rate in nine months. All major regions experienced slowdowns in January, with the Northeast and West seeing the largest.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the housing market got off to a somewhat disappointing start to begin the year with January closings down throughout the country. “January housing data can be volatile because of seasonal influences, but low housing supply and the ongoing rise in home prices above the pace of inflation appeared to slow sales despite interest rates remaining near historic lows,” he said. “Realtors are reporting that low rates are attracting potential buyers, but the lack of new and affordable listings is leading some to delay decisions.”

All-cash sales were 27 percent of transactions in January, up from 26 percent in December but down from 33 percent in January of last year. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 17 percent of homes in January, unchanged from last month and below January 2014 (20 percent). Sixty-seven percent of investors paid cash in January.

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – were 11 percent of sales in January, unchanged from last month but down from 15 percent a year ago. Eight percent of January sales were foreclosures and 3 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 15 percent below market value in January (unchanged from December), while short sales were discounted 12 percent (also unchanged from last month).

Properties typically stayed on the market slightly longer in January (69 days) than December (66 days) and a year ago (67 days). Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 128 days in January, while foreclosures sold in 63 days and non-distressed homes took 68 days. Thirty percent of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month.

Existing-home sales in the West dropped 7.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.04 million in January, but are still 1.0 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $291,800, which is 7.2 percent above January 2014.