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Economy in Brief

U.S. Existing Home Sales Continue to Slide
by Gerald D. Cohen  February 21, 2019

The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes fell a greater-than-expected 1.2% in January (-8.5% year-on-year) to 4.940 million units (SAAR). This was the lowest reading since a regulatory-change-driven divot in sales in November 2015. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected sales of 5.00 million units. December’s reading was revised slightly higher to 5.00 million.

The median price of all existing homes sold declined 2.8% (+2.8% y/y) last month to $247,500. Prices hit a record $273,800 in June. The average sales price fell 2.4% (+1.5% y/y) to $286,800. Sales price data is not seasonally adjusted, so it is not surprising that prices declined month-on-month in January.

Existing home sales weakened in every region except the Northeast. The West led the decline with a 2.9% drop (-13.8% y/y) to an eight-year low of 1.00 million. The Midwest fell 2.5% (-7.9% y/y) and the South was down 1.0% (-8.4% y/y). Sales in the Northeast gained 2.9% (-1.4% y/y) and have been range-bound around the current 700,000 level for the last few years.

Sales of existing single-family homes declined 1.8% (-8.4% y/y) to 4.37 million units, the weakest reading in over three years. Sales of condos and co-ops rose 3.6% (-9.5% y/y) to 570,000 units, bouncing off December’s six-and-a-half year low.

The number of homes on the market increased 4.6% y/y. The months' supply of homes on the market rose to 3.9 up half a month from last January.

The data on existing home sales, prices and affordability are compiled by the National Association of Realtors and can be found in Haver's USECON database. The regional price, affordability and inventory data are available in the REALTOR database. The expectations figure is from the Action Economics Forecast Survey, reported in the AS1REPNA database.

Existing Home Sales (SAAR, 000s) Jan Dec Nov Y/Y % 2018 2017 2016
Total 4,940 5,000 5,210 -8.5 5,341 5,531 5,437
   Northeast 700 680 710 -1.4 689 735 733
   Midwest 1,160 1,190 1,300 -7.9 1,265 1,301 1,297
   South 2,080 2,100 2,160 -8.4 2,246 2,270 2,215
   West 1,000 1,030 1,040 -13.8 1,141 1,225 1,192
Single-Family 4,370 4,450 4,630 -8.4 4,742 4,907 4,822
Median Price Total ($, NSA) 247,500 254,700 257,400 2.8 257,267 245,950 232,067
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