Except for the Midwest, all major regions gained in sales last month, with its sales pace at 3.8% more than a year ago with 5.48 million – more than 5.60 million in November last year, which was the strongest since February 2007 with 5.79 million.
"Much of the country saw robust sales activity last month as strong hiring and improved consumer confidence at the end of last year appear to have sparked considerable interest in buying a home,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "Market challenges remain, but the housing market is off to a prosperous start as homebuyers staved off inventory levels that are far from adequate and deteriorating affordability conditions."
In January, the median existing home price for all housing types was $228,900 – a year-over-year increase of 7.1% from $213,700 in January 2016. By the end of the month, total housing inventory increased by 2.4% to 1.69 million existing homes for sale, but remains 7.1% lower than last year with 1.82 million – a year-over-year fall for 20 consecutive months.
December last year saw properties typically stay on the market for 52 days, while January had a record of 50 days; short sales were on the market for 108 days last month, while foreclosures had a record of 51 days and non-distressed homes with 49 days.
"Competition is likely to heat up even more heading into the spring for house hunters looking for homes in the lower- and mid-market price range," Yun added.
NAR President William E. Brown said inventory could drag down for would-be buyers in the next months.
“Supply and demand imbalances continue to be burdensome in many markets, and now Fannie Mae is supporting a Wall Street firm's investment in single-family rentals,” said Brown. "This will only further hamper tight supply and put major investors in direct competition with traditional buyers. Instead, the GSEs should lower overly burdensome fees and help qualified borrowers become homeowners."
Morning Briefing: Existing sales rise at fastest pace in a decade
Potential January existing-home sales decline
Existing home sales are off to good start this year, as it grew by 3.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.69 million in January, from 5.51 million in December 2016, according to the National Association of Realtors.