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Economy in Brief

U.S. Existing Home Sales Edge Up in December; 2020 Sales Are Highest Since 2006
by Tom Moeller  January 22, 2021

• Existing home sales rebound 72.9% since May low.

• Inventory of unsold homes continues to fall sharply.

• Sales are mixed m/m across regions.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that sales of existing homes rose 0.7% (22.2% y/y) during December to 6.760 million (SAAR) from 6.710 million in November, revised from 6.690 million. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected December sales of 6.55 million. During all of 2020, existing home sales totaled 5.640 million, up 5.6% from 2019. Data are compiled when existing home sales close.

Housing supply continues decline. The number of homes on the market fell 23.0% y/y last month. The months' supply of homes on the market fell to a record low of 1.9, down from 4.8 months in May.

Sales were mixed last month across the country. In the Northeast, sales rose 4.5% (27.4% y/y) to 930,000 units after a 1.1% November decline. Sales in the Midwest held steady (+26.2% y/y) at 1.590 million after rising to a record 1.630 million in October. In the South, sales improved 1.1% (20.7% y/y) to 2.860 million. In the West, sales edged 1.4% lower (+17.9% y/y) to 1.380 million after holding steady in November.

The median price of an existing home eased 0.4% (+12.9% y/y) to $309,800. The median home price in the Northeast rose 1.7% (19.0% y/y) to $362,100. In the Midwest, prices eased 1.4% (+13.7% y/y) to $235,700. The median home price in the South slipped 0.4% (+11.3% y/y) to $268,100 while prices in the West edged 0.1% higher (14.2% y/y) to $467,900. The price data are not seasonally adjusted. The mean sales price of all existing homes slipped 0.1% last month (+10.1% y/y) to $342,400.

Sales of existing single-family homes rose 0.7% (+22.8% y/y) to 6.03 million units after falling 2.3% during November. That decline followed five consecutive months of increase. Sales of condos and co-ops rose 1.4% (17.7% y/y) to 730,000 units and reversed November's decline. The increase left sales at the highest level since December 2006.

The data on existing home sales, prices and affordability are compiled by the National Association of Realtors. The data trace back to February 1968. Total sales and price data and regional sales can be found in Haver's USECON database. Regional price and affordability data and national inventory data are available in the REALTOR database. The expectations figure is from the Action Economics Forecast Survey, reported in the AS1REPNA database.

Coronavirus Sufferers Remain in the Data Shadows from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis is available here.

Existing Home Sales (SAAR, 000s) Dec Nov Oct Dec Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Total Sales 6,760 6,710 6,860 22.2 5,640 5,340 5,340
   Northeast 930 890 900 27.4 700 690 690
   Midwest 1,590 1,590 1,630 26.2 1,330 1,250 1,270
   South 2,860 2,830 2,930 20.7 2,450 2,290 2,240
   West 1,380 1,400 1,400 17.9 1,150 1,120 1,140
 Single-Family Sales 6,030 5,990 6,130 22.8 5,066 4,755 4,742
Median Price Total ($, NSA) 309,800 310,900 313,100 12.9 295,267 269,783 257,267
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