US home sales plummet, adding to fears of 2019 slowdown

The 10% drop in December ended a year that was weakest for existing home sales since 2015

Home sales fell in December
Home sales fell in December

The number of homes sold dropped sharply in December, raising fears that 2019 will be marked by a continued slowdown in the U.S. housing market.

Sales of existing homes dropped 10.3 percent last month compared to the same time in 2017, and 6.4 percent from November, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors, cited in the Wall Street Journal. Many markets saw double-digit declines in existing home sales, including much of California, Seattle, Denver, Maryland, Delaware and Philadelphia, according to the report.

Last month wrapped up the weakest year for home sales since 2015. The market slowed particularly in the second half of the year amid rising interest rates and a greater uncertainty about the stock market and economy at large.

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In Chicago, home sales in December fell 16.5 percent year over year, ending a 2018 that saw overall sales drop 3.7 percent and home prices rise 3.2 percent.

December also saw price growth slow, as sellers cut their asks in hopes of getting reluctant buyers to bite. Prices grew 1.2 percent in December, a six-year low, according to Redfin. It predicted the cooling off from the second half of 2018 will continue into this year, with housing inventory rising and price growth continuing to pull back.

Fewer people think now is a good time to buy a home than at any time at least in the past three years, according to a recent survey by the Realtors association. [WSJ]John O’Brien

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