Existing-Home Sales Up, Inventory Down
Feb 29, 2012
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Sales of existing homes were up in January, for the third month of gain out of the last four months, even as inventories continued improving, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Total existing-home sales - completed transactions of single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops - were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.57 million in January 2012, up 4.3% from a downwardly revised 4.38 million-unit pace in December 2012 and 0.7% above a spike to 4.54 million in January 2011.

"The uptrend in home sales is in line with all of the underlying fundamentals - pent-up household formation, record-low mortgage interest rates, bargain home prices, sustained job creation, and rising rents," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Total housing inventory at the end of January 2012 fell 0.4% to 2.31 million existing homes available for sale, or 6.1-month supply at the current pace of sales, and down from a 6.4-month supply in December 2011.

"The broad inventory condition can be described as moving into a rough balance, not favoring buyers or sellers," Yun said. "Foreclosure sales are moving swiftly with ready home buyers and investors competing in nearly all markets. A government proposal to turn bank-owned properties into rentals on a large scale does not appear to be needed at this time."

Total unsold listed inventory trended down from the record of 4.04 million in July 2007, and is 20.6% below a year ago.

Freddie Mac reported that the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was a record low 3.92% in January 2012, down from 3.96% in December 2011. The rate was 4.76% in January 2011. Recordkeeping began in 1971.

"Home buyers over the past three years have had some of the lowest default rates in history," Yun said. "Entering the market at a low point and buying at discounted prices have greatly helped in that success."

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