Despite recent rebounds in the U.S. homeownership rate, minority home buyers continue to struggle to recover from the foreclosure crisis.
Courtesy Adobe Stock/Sean Locke

After closing the slowest year for sales in three decades in 2023, existing-home sales rebounded and increased in January, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Existing-home sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops, improved 3.1% from December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4 million in January.

On a year-over-year basis, sales fell 1.7% from 4.07 million in January 2023.

“While home sales remain sizably lower than a couple of years ago, January’s monthly gain is the start of more supply and demand,” says NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Listings were modestly higher, and home buyers are taking advantage of lower mortgage rates compared to late last year.”

Total inventory registered at the end of January improved 2% from December and 3.1% from January 2023 to 1.01 million units. Unsold inventory sits at a three-month supply at the current sales pace, according to the NAR.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in January was $379,100, an increase of 5.1% from a year ago. Each of the four major U.S. regions saw prices increase on a year-over-year basis.

Single-family home sales improved to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.6 million in January, up 3.4% from December but down 1.4% from the prior year. The median existing single-family home price increased 5% year over year to $383,500 in January.

“The median home price reached an all-time high for the month of January,” says Yun. “Multiple offers are common on midpriced homes, and many homes were still sold within a month. The elevated share of cash deals—32%—indicated a market full of multiple offers and propelled by record-high housing wealth.”

According to the Realtors Confidence Index, properties typically remained on the market for 36 days in January, up from 29 days in December and 33 days in January 2023.

First-time buyers were responsible for 28% of sales in January, down from 31% a year ago. Individual investors or second-home buyers, many of who make cash sales, purchased 17% of homes in January, up from 16% in December and January 2023.

On a regional basis, existing-home sales were unchanged month over month but down 5.9% year over year in January in the Northeast. Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 2.2% compared with December but fell 3.1% compared with January 2023.

Sales in the South increased 4% from December but declined 1.6% on a year-over-year basis in January. In the West, existing-home sales improved on both a month-over-month (4.3%) and year-over-year (2.8%) basis.

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