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Economy in Brief

U.S. Existing Home Sales Decline in December
by Tom Moeller  January 20, 2022

• Sales fall as Omicron sets in.

• Regional declines are broad-based.

• Median price nears record.

Existing home sales declined 4.6% (-7.1% y/y) to 6.180 million units (SAAR) in December after rising to 6.480 million in November, revised from 6.460 million, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). For all 2021, sales averaged 6.132 million, up 8.4% from 2020. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected a fall in sales to 6.42 million units in December. These data are compiled when existing home sales close.

The decline in existing home sales included a 4.3% fall (-6.8% y/y) in single-family home sales to 5.520 million from 5.770 million in November. Sales of condos and co-ops weakened 7.0% (-9.6% y/y) to 660,000 from 710,000.

Sales declined across the country. Sales in the West weakened 6.8% (-10.2% y/y) to 1.230 million following a 1.5% November gain. In the South, sales declined 6.3% (-5.3% y/y) to 2.770 million in December after rising 4.0% in November. Sales in the Midwest fell 1.3% (-2.6% y/y) to 1.500 million after a 0.7% November improvement. Sales in the Northeast were off 1.3% (-15.7% y/y) to 750,000 after holding steady in November.

The median price of an existing home increased 1.0% (15.8% y/y) to $358,000 in December. During all of 2021, the median price rose 16.5% to $343,992 after gaining 9.4% in 2020. In the West, prices were fairly steady last month (8.4% y/y) for a second month at $507,100. December home prices in the Northeast rose 0.8% (6.3% y/y) to $384,600. Prices in the South rose 2.1% in December (20.2% y/y) to $323,000. In the Midwest, prices eased 0.8% last month (+10.0% y/y) to $256,900. The price data are not seasonally adjusted.

The number of existing homes on the market dropped 18.0% (NSA) in December to 910,000 units (-14.2% y/y). The supply of homes on the market fell to 1.8 months in December. That was well below the high of 4.6 months in May 2020. These figures date back to January 1999.

The data on existing home sales, prices and affordability are compiled by the National Association of Realtors. The data on single-family home sales extend 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.

Existing Home Sales (SAAR, 000s) Dec Nov Oct Dec Y/Y % 2021 2020 2019
Total Sales 6,180 6,480 6,340 -7.1 6,132 5,658 5,327
   Northeast 750 760 760 -15.7 758 705 684
   Midwest 1,500 1,520 1,510 -2.6 1,397 1,339 1,246
   South 2,700 2,880 2,770 -5.3 2,710 2,458 2,282
   West 1,230 1,320 1,300 -10.2 1,267 1,156 1,115
 Single-Family Sales 5,520 5,770 5,660 -6.8 5,426 5,076 4,749
Median Price Total ($, NSA) 358,000 354,400 352,700 15.8 343,992 295,217 269,783
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