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Existing home sales inch up at the start of 2021

Amanda Fung
·Editor
·2 min read
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Housing activity began 2021 on a strong note.

Existing home sales rose 0.6% to 6.69 million in January from a month earlier, up 23.7% from one year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The results was slightly above the 6.6 million expected, according to Bloomberg consensus estimates. Sales activity year-over-year rose in all four regions — Northeast, Midwest, South, and West — in the U.S.

“Home sales continue to ascend in the first month of the year, as buyers quickly snatched up virtually every new listing coming on the market,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, in a press statement. “Sales easily could have been even 20% higher if there had been more inventory and more choices.”

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The number of homes for sale reached an all-time low of 1.04 million in January, down 1.9% from December and down 26% from a year ago. At the current pace of home sales, it would take 1.9 months to exhaust existing supply. At this time last year, it would have taken 3.9 months. “Supply is very tight,” said Yun at a press conference before the data was released.

Record-low mortgage rates and pandemic-induced housing demand are likely to keep sales elevated, said Credit Suisse in a research note.

"The factors that contributed to a surge in buyer demand in the latter half of 2020 are still very much in play in early 2021. Despite fluctuating in the early part of the month, mortgage rates spent most of January at or near record lows, and the wave of 20- and 30-somethings aging into their prime homeownership years continued to swell" said Zillow Economist Matthew Speakman, in a press statement. "These factors, combined with many buyers reconsidering their housing needs amid the pandemic, helped stoke red-hot competition for homes that became the norm in 2020, pushing prices skyward and leading homes to fly off the shelves."

Median existing home sale price rose 14.1% to $303,900 in January from the same time a year ago. Yun noted that prices were skewed higher by strong sales of $1 million-plus homes in January.

“Home sales are continuing to play a part in propping up the economy,” Yun said. “With additional stimulus likely to pass and several vaccines now available, the housing outlook looks solid for this year.”

Amanda Fung is an editor at Yahoo Finance.

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