WASHINGTON, D.C.: US existing-home sales edged higher in January, while tight inventory drove prices higher at the fastest pace since last April, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
Sales of previously owned homes rose 0.4 percent to an annual rate of 5.47 million units in January, the NAR said. The December pace was slightly revised downward to 5.45 million units.
January sales were 11.0 percent higher than a year ago, the largest year-over-year gain since July 2013.
Sales gains were broad, with only the West showing a decline, and pointed to a strong start to 2016 for the housing market, a bright spot in the modestly growing US economy.
Sales of single-family homes, the largest part of the market, rose 1.0 percent from December. Sales of condominiums and co-ops fell 4.7 percent.
Over the past 12 months, single-family home sales were up 11.2 percent and condo/co-op sales increased 8.9 percent.
Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said the housing market has been showing encouraging resilience in recent months, but home prices were still rising too fast because of a lack of supply.
“Despite the global economic slowdown, the housing sector continues to recover and will likely help the US economy avoid a recession,” Yun said.
The median existing-home price overall in January was $213,800, up 8.2 percent from January 2015, the largest year-over-year gain since April 2015.
The supply of existing homes on the market rose 3.4 percent in January but was 2.2 percent lower than a year ago.
“Home prices ascending near or above double-digit appreciation aren’t healthy—especially considering the fact that household income and wages are barely rising,” Yun said.
Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said that rising mortgage applications in recent months “points to a strong spring selling season” with tight inventory likely to drive further rapid price gains.
The NAR reported Tuesday that home prices in 20 major cities rose 0.8 percent in December from November, and were up 5.7 percent from a year ago.
The highest annual gains among the 20 cities continued to be in Portland, San Francisco and Denver, all reporting double-digit increases in December, led by Portland at 11.4 percent.