Existing-home sales decreased 3.6% in December, but the first-time buyer share rebounded to 32% from 29% last month. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing sales for all of 2017 increased 1.1% from the previous year, and was the best year for sales in 11 years. Some 44% of homes sold last month were on the market less than a month, unchanged from November. The December inventory decreased 11.4%, and is 10.3% lower than a year ago, having decreased for the 31st consecutive month. At the current sales rate, the December unsold inventory represents a 3.2-month supply, the lowest since NAR began this series in 1999. December existing sales reached a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.57 million units, compared to a downwardly revised 5.78 million in November. Total existing home sales include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.
December existing sales decreased in all regions, ranging from 1.6% in the West to 7.5% in the Northeast. Year-over-year, existing sales increased by 3.1% in the South and 1.5% in the Midwest, but decreased 0.8% in the West and 2.6% in the Northeast.
Homes stayed on the market for 40 days in December, unchanged from November, and down from 52 days a year ago.
The December all-cash sales share was 20%, down from 22% last month and 21% a year ago. Individual investors purchased a 16% share in December, up from 14% in November and a year ago.
The December median sales price of $246,800 was up 5.8% from a year ago, representing the 70th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The December median condominium/co-op price of $236,500 was up 6.4% from a year ago.
Pending sales were flat in November, so existing-home sales were not expected to increase in December. Single-family starts pulled back in December as well, but finished the year 8.5% ahead of last year, and builder confidence remains strong. Personal income gains and jobs will continue to spur more gains by first-time buyers into the housing market.