January home sales held steady and may indicate that a seller’s market is emerging, reports the National Association of Realtors. Total existing home sales went up 0.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.92 million, up 9.1 percent from the January 2012 level of 4.51 million units. Home prices continue to rise above last year’s levels, and sales are up in all regions except for the West, where inventory is tighter.
Total housing inventory at the end of January dropped 4.9 percent to 1.74 million existing homes on the market, or a 4.2-month supply. This marks the lowest supply rate since April 2005. NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said that “buyer traffic is continuing to pick up, while seller traffic is holding steady.”
The number of available homes for sale is lower than the six-month supply considered to be typical of a balanced market, reports Forbes. But some experts like Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group, cautions against using the term “seller’s market” to sum up current housing activity. “I don’t think it is a seller’s market yet but I do think we are getting back to a more balanced market where it’s no longer simply a buyer’s market.” According to Business Insider, Bank of America economist Michelle Meyer sees a market opportunity for new construction and existing homes to add to inventories and offset undue pressure on home prices.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $173,600 in January, up 12.3 percent from January 2012, making the 11th consecutive month of year-over-year price increases. Distressed transactions comprised 23 percent of January sales, down from 24 percent in December and 35 percent in January 2012. And the national average commitment rate for a 30-year conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose slightly to 3.41 percent in January from a record low 3.35 percent in December.