Existing home sales decline for 11th straight month in December

YOY sales fell across all regions, representing an overall drop of 34% from December 2021

WASHINGTON — Existing home sales fell for the 11th consecutive month in December, reflecting an ongoing malaise in the industry that could continue to impact home furnishings sales.

According to the National Association of Realtors, December sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.02 million, down 1.5% from November and 34% from the 6.09 million units sold in December 2021.

Month-over-month sales fell in three of four regions, with sales activity in the West unchanged. All regions had year-over-year declines, the NAR reported.

“December was another difficult month for buyers, who continue to face limited inventory and high mortgage rates,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, adding that the industry expects sales to pick up again soon as mortgage rates have begun to drop since peaking in late 2022.

By region, the report described activity as follows:

Existing home sales in the Northeast fell 1.9% from November to an annual rate of 520,000 in December, which also was down 28.8% from December 2021. The median price in the region was $391,400, up 1.6% from December 2021.

In the South, sales fell 2.2% from November to an annual rate of 1.8 million, down 33.1% from 2021. The median price was $337,900, up 3.5% from last year.

In the Midwest, sales fell 1% to an annual rate of 1.01 million from November, also down 30.3% from 2021. The median price in the region was $262,000, up 2.9% from December 2021.

In the West, sales were flat at 690,000, but were down 43.4% from 2021. The median sales price was $557,900, up $200, or less than one-tenth of a percent from December 2021.

According to the report, the total housing inventory registered by the end of December was 970,000 units, down 13.4% from November, but up 10.2% from 2021. The unsold inventory was at a 2.9-month supply based on the current pace of sales, which was down from 3.3 months in November and up from 1.7 months in December 2021.

The median existing home price for all housing types in December was $366,900, up 2.3% from December 2021 because of price increases across all four regions. This was the 130th consecutive month of year-over-year increases, which the NAR described as the longest-running streak on record.

“Home prices are still positive, though mildly,” Yun said. “Markets in roughly half the country are likely to offer potential buyers discounted prices compared to last year.”

Other highlights of the report were as follows:

+ Properties remained on the market for about 26 days in December, up from 24 days in November and 19 days from December 2021. Some 57% of the homes sold in December were on the market for less than a month.

+ First-time buyers accounted for 31% of the sales in December, up from 28% in November and 30% in December 2021.

+ All-cash sales represented 28% of transactions in December, up from 26% in November and 23% in December 2021. Also, individual investors, or second-home buyers who make up many cash sales, purchased 16% of homes in December, up from 14% in November and down from 17% in December 2021.

+ Distressed sales, including foreclosures and short sales, represented 1% of sales in December, unchanged from November and December 2021.

The 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 6.15% as of Jan. 19, down from 6.33% the week prior but up from 3.56% a year ago.

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at tom@homenewsnow.com and at 336-508-4616.

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