Home sales slide to end the year

The Scotsman Guide - Victor Whitman - 24 January 2017

U.S. home sales slid in December as homebuyers faced historically low numbers of homes for sale and rising costs, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported. Overall sales for 2016 were still the highest in a decade, however. 

Existing homes sales ran at an annual pace of 5.49 million in December, NAR said, down 2.8 percent from the November level (5.64 million) and just 0.7 percent higher than the same month a year ago.

The trade group estimated that the year-end total of existing sales for all of 2016 was 5.45 million, up roughly 4 percent from the 2015 total and the highest total since 2006 (6.48 million).

"Solid job creation throughout 2016 and exceptionally low mortgage rates translated into a good year for the housing market," NAR’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said. "However, higher mortgage rates and home prices combined with record low inventory levels stunted sales in much of the country in December."

First-time buyers represented 32 percent of sales in December, unchanged from November and a year ago, NAR said.  

The supply of homes for sale fell for the 19th straight month to 3.6 months, a historically low number and down from 3.9 months in December 2015, NAR said.  The median existing-home price for all housing types in December was $232,200, up 4.0 percent from December 2015.

Regionally, existing sales in December were running modestly ahead of the pace a year earlier in all regions, except the West region, where year over year sales were down by 1.6 percent.