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How's That? Home Sales, Prices, Inventory All Drop

The National Association of Realtors is out this morning with its home-sales report for January. And it shows a surprising mix: The number of existing-home sales, of all types, fell 5.3 percent from December to January. (That number is adjusted to account for seasonal variations; it's down 8.6 percent compared with a year earlier.) The median price fell 3.07 percent in January to $170,300. (That's an annual decrease of 14.8 percent.)

What's odd is that total inventory of homes available for sale also fell 2.7 percent. If both sales and inventory are down, that means fewer homes were put on the market in January than in December. Usually the supply of homes for sale starts to drift up in January as sellers anticipate the busier spring market.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors, said the decline in new listings could in part be because of moratoriums on foreclosures that some large lenders announced in anticipation of the federal government's housing plan. Foreclosures and short-sales have been a huge part of the housing market lately. NAR estimates they made up about 45 percent of all sales in January.

Or maybe non-distressed sellers were simply holding back from the market in January, waiting to see what kind of market would develop after the government released its housing plan.

The prevalence of distressed sales explains why the median price fell so much. It was $169,900 for a single-family house in January, 13.8 percent lower than a year ago. Condos took a much bigger hit, with sales dropping 10.2 percent in January, for a 20.3 percent annual decline. The median price for an existing condo fell 20.6 percent since January, 2008, to a new median of $174,400.

The inventory of all homes on the market has fallen for six straight months, which is a promising sign. It will be interesting to see what happens this spring. Will foreclosures rise as moratoriums expire, or will they flatten out or decrease as the government's new refinance program goes into place? NAR is counting more on the newly announced sales incentives, namely the $8,000 first-time buyer tax credit and the higher jumbo-loan limit, to boost sales this year. They estimate those measures will trigger 9000,000 extra home sales this year and help stabilize prices.

Are you seeing any decline in the inventory of homes for sale locally?

By Elizabeth Razzi  |  February 25, 2009; 10:32 AM ET
Categories:  Statistics , The market  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Will Housing Market Spring Forward?
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I don't think the $8k credit will get people into the market that wouldn't be there anyway. At least not in this region. Whether it's claimed on this year's tax return or next year's, it won't be in your hands until after the purchase is complete. Meaning people still need to afford to buy on their own.

Posted by: cgriesba | February 26, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I like the blog, please keep it up!

There might be new local (NoVA) inventory at the $600K+ level, but at the price point for most first-time and tax-credit-motivated buyers, inventory is stagnant. Family-sized homes in good condition and at the right price (>400K) are selling in a matter of days, but everything else is and has been sitting for months. A huge chunk of the current inventory appears to be older/deteriorated homes that have been on the market for a long time.

Posted by: paisleyfish | February 26, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Just a side note you can list and check the prices of real estate listings in your area over at

Posted by: andy5925 | March 3, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

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