Existing home sales, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), increased 3.3% in January, reaching the fastest pace since February 2007. At the current sales rate, the January unsold inventory represents a 3.6-month supply, unchanged from December. January existing sales were up 3.8% from the same month a year ago, and advanced to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.69 million from an upwardly revised 5.51 million in December. Total existing home sales include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.
Existing sales in the West, Northeast and South increased by 6.6%, 5.3% and 3.6% in January, while the Midwest declined by 1.5%. Year-over-year, existing sales increased in the West, Northeast and South by 8.4%, 6.7% and 3.1% respectively, while declining 0.8% in the Midwest.
Total housing inventory, which decreased 10.8% last month, rebounded by 2.4% in January, but remains 7.1% below the January 2016 level, and has declined year-over-year for 20 consecutive months. Homes stayed on the market for 50 days in January, down from 52 days in December and 64 days a year ago. Some 38% of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month.
The December all-cash sales share increased to 23% from 21% in December, but is down from 26% during the same month a year ago. Individual investors purchased a 15% share in January, unchanged from December and down from 17% a year ago. Some 59% of investors paid cash in January, unchanged from December. The first-time home buyer share ticked up to 33% in January, up from 32% last month and a year ago. Distressed sales, comprised of foreclosures and short sales, took a 7% share in January, unchanged from December, and down from 9% the same month a year ago.
The January median sales price jumped 7.1% to $228,900, representing the 59th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The January median condominium/co-op price of $217,400 was up 6.2% from the same month a year ago.
The January increase in existing sales was consistent with the December increase in pending sales. Builders continue to address the low inventory of homes as builder sentiment settled back to sustainable levels in February. Both jobs and incomes are growing, suggesting an improving market for new single-family construction.