US home sales climb in January to a 10-year high

Warm weather, lower mortgage rates driving demand
February 22, 2017 01:40PM

The number of home sold across the country climbed in January to the highest level since February 2007 despite limited supply and rising prices.

Deals on previously owned homes, which comprise the overwhelming majority of U.S. sales, hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.7 million in January, a 3.3 percent increase from December, according to data from the National Association of Realtors cited by the Wall Street Journal.

The increase from the end of the last year bested economists’ expectations. Experts surveyed by the Journal had expected home sales to rise only 1.1 percent in January following a 2.8 percent decline leading into December.

Warm weather and lower mortgage rates helped push demand.

“Buyers are in force in 2017,” said Nela Richardson, Redfin’s chief economist, who added that demand for homes – measured by the number of tours that buyers take and the offers they write – is at its highest since January 2013.

Inventory climbed 2.4 percent from December to January as inventory dropped to its lowest level since the National Association of Realtors began comprehensively tracking supply in 1999. At the current sales pace, it would take 3.6 months to absorb the supply of homes on the market.

That low inventory is helping to push up median prices, which climbed 7.1 percent year-over-year in January to $228,900.

Housing starts dropped 2.6 percent in January, though permits rose 4.6 percent. [WSJ]Rich Bockmann