Home sales inching up

By Les Christie, staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Sales of existing homes recorded modest gains in January, the third straight month of month-over-month increases.

According to the National Association of Realtors, homes sold at an annual rate of 5.36 million in January, up 2.7% from December and 5.3% higher than January 2010 sales. At the same time, the median home price fell 3% to $158,000, compared to a year earlier.

It was the first time in seven months that the monthly sales total was higher than the year before.

"The up trend in home sales is consistent with improvements in the economy and jobs," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist.

The report was slightly stronger than expected. A consensus of experts surveyed by Briefing.com had expected sales to hit 5.23 million.

Yun pointed out that home sales have benefited from unusually favorable conditions: Mortgage rates are still very low; there's a large supply of homes to choose from; and home prices have fallen to near post-housing bust lows.

One factor holding buyers back is the still tight mortgage lending.

"Buyers have been constrained by unnecessarily tight credit," said Yun. "As a result, there are abnormally high levels of all-cash purchases, along with rising investor activity."

NAR reported that all-cash sales went up to 32% of the total, up from 26% a year earlier. It estimated the percentage of investor purchases hit 23%, up from 17% a year ago.

"Unprecedented levels of all-cash purchases -- primarily of distressed homes sold at deep discounts -- undoubtedly pulls the median price downward," said NAR president, Ron Phipps.

Whatever the source of the sales, they do have a welcome impact on supply. Inventory dropped 5.1% to 3.38 million units, a 7.6-month supply at the current rates of sales. That was the lowest inventory level in more than a year.

Normally, a five- or six-month supply is considered a good balance between supply and demand. That's when sellers will start to regain some of the "pricing power" they've lost in the bust.

Right now, said Hoffman, "Sellers are desperate to sell and buyers bidding low." To top of page


Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.93%4.15%
15 yr fixed3.03%3.12%
5/1 ARM3.27%3.19%
30 yr refi4.01%4.20%
15 yr refi3.09%3.17%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
  • Find Homes for sale
    Real estate and homes for sale on Trulia

  • Property Type
  • Find a home in: New York | Atlanta | Chicago | Los Angeles
  • Washington D.C | Houston | Philadelphia | More options
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,399.67 19.26 0.12%
Nasdaq 4,316.07 57.64 1.35%
S&P 500 1,904.01 17.25 0.91%
Treasuries 2.21 0.03 1.28%
Data as of 8:36am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Apple Inc 99.76 2.01 2.06%
Bank of America Corp... 16.26 0.00 0.00%
Pfizer Inc 27.93 0.04 0.16%
Facebook Inc 76.95 0.98 1.29%
Microsoft Corp 44.08 0.00 0.00%
Data as of Oct 20

Sections

Better-than-expected iPhone sales and record Mac sales lifted Apple in its fiscal fourth quarter. More

In three years, all Chicago high school students will have to take a coding course in order to graduate. More

Host a furniture market. Here's how small town High Point, N.C. rakes in this much money -- twice a year. More

Foreign workers, lured by false promises of good jobs and benefits in America, soon find themselves enslaved in plain sight as victims of labor trafficking, a report from the Urban Institute finds. Here's how it can happen. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.