Existing home sales fell in December

Register now

Existing home sales fell 6.4% to a seasonally adjusted 4.99 million-unit rate in December from a revised 5.33 million sales pace in November originally reported at 5.32 million, the National Association of Realtors announced Tuesday.

Economists surveyed by IFR Markets had expected a rate of 5.24 million in December.

Sales are now down 10.3% from December 2017’s level of 5.56 million.
“The housing market is obviously very sensitive to mortgage rates,” said NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Softer sales in December reflected consumer search processes and contract signing activity in previous months when mortgage rates were higher than today. Now, with mortgage rates lower, some revival in home sales is expected going into spring.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in December was $253,600, up 2.9% from December 2017’s level of $246,500. December’s price increase marks the 82nd straight month of year-over-year gains.

“The partial shutdown of the federal government has not had a significant effect on December closings, but the uncertainty of a shutdown has the potential to harm the market,” said NAR President John Smaby. “Once the government is fully reopened, I am hopeful that housing transactions will increase.”

Total housing inventory at the end of December decreased to 1.55 million from 1.74 million in November; however it is up from 1.46 million a year ago.

Properties typically stayed on the market for 46 days in December, up from 42 days in November and 40 days a year ago. Of homes sold in December, 39% were on the market for less than a month.

“Several consecutive months of rising inventory is a positive development for consumers and could lead to slower home price appreciation,” Yun said. “But there is still a lack of adequate inventory on the lower-priced points and too many in upper-priced points.”

December existing-home sales in the Northeast decreased 6.8% to an annual rate of 690,000, down 6.8% from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $283,400, up 8.2% from December 2017.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales declined 11.2% to an annual rate of 1.19 million in December, down 10.5% from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $191,300, unchanged from last year.

Existing-home sales in the South dropped 5.4% to an annual rate of 2.09 million in December, down 8.7% from last year. The median price in the South was $224,300, up 2.5% from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West dipped 1.9% to an annual rate of 1.02 million in December, 15% below a year ago. The median price in the West was $374,400, up 0.2% from December 2017.

The existing home sales data measures sales and prices of existing single-family homes in the United States overall and gives breakdowns for the West, Midwest South and Northeast regions of the country. These figures include condos and co-ops, in addition to single-family homes.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
Economic indicators