Existing home sales, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), increased 0.4% in January to the highest level since July, and are up 11.0% from last January. The first-time buyer share for 2015 averaged 30%, up from 29% in 2014 and 2013. Total existing home sales in January increased to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.47 million units combined for single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, up from a downwardly revised 5.45 million units in December.
Existing sales increased 4.0% in the Midwest and 2.7% in the Northeast while remaining flat in the South and falling 4.1% in the West. Year-over-year, all regions increased, including 20.6% in the Northeast, 18.2% in the Midwest, 8.3% in the West and 5.7% in the South.
Total housing inventory increased by 3.4% in January, but remains 2.2% lower than its level a year ago. At the current sales rate, the January unsold inventory represents a 4.0-month supply, compared to a 3.9-month supply in December and a 5.1-month supply in November. Some 32% of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month, the same share as in December.
The distressed sales share increased to 9% in January form 8% in December. Distressed sales are defined as foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts. The January all-cash sales share increased to 26% from 24% in December, but remains below the 27% share during the same month a year ago. Individual investors purchased a 17% share in January, up from a 15% share in December, and equal to the same month a year ago. The share of first-time buyers was 32% in January, the same as in December and an increase from 28% the previous January.
The January median sales price of $213,800 was 8.2% above last January, and represents the 47th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The median condominium/co-op price of $203,900 in January was up 7.4% from last January.
The Pending Home Sales Index increased slightly in December, and the sharp volatility in November and December existing sales was a function of implementing a new regulation. Builder sentiment remains strong, and the tight inventory of existing homes bodes well for new single-family sales in 2016.