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5 Key Takeaways from NAR’s Existing-Home Sales Report

by Peter Thomas Ricci

Though much of the media coverage is focusing on the weak nature of NAR’s latest existing-home sales report, there were definite glimmers of optimism.

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We’ll start with what most of the media are reporting on – existing-home sales in January declined to their lowest mark since July 2012, falling 5.1 percent by both monthly and yearly measures, according to the latest report from the National Association of Realtors.

Yet, as is always the case with NAR’s report, that screaming stat obscured the more subtle shadings of what the association uncovered, and below, we’ve listed several of those very shadings:

1. Median Price Continues to Rise – Housing inventory remains extremely low, and as a result, home prices are still rising strongly; in January, median existing-home price was up 10.7 percent from Jan. 2013.

2. Existing-Home Sales are Growing More Balanced – In perhaps the most encouraging finding in the entire report, distressed homes accounted for just 15 percent of all January sales, down from 24 percent a year ago. The less market share distressed sales have, the more balanced the housing market becomes, which can only mean good things for housing.

3. All-Cash Remains Strong – Both all-cash transactions and investor activity remained strong and steady in January, with all-cash sales accounting for 33 percent of transactions (up from 28 percent a year ago) and investors for 20 percent (flat from last year).

4. Time on Market Continues to Fall – The median time on market in January was 67 days, down from 72 days in December and 71 in Jan. 2013. Thirty-one percent of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month.

5. First-Timers are Still Missing – At just 26 percent of home purchases in January, first-time homebuyers remain missing in action. Not only is that 26 percent down from the 30 percent of Jan. 2013, but it’s much lower than the historic average of 40 percent. See our recent story on student debt for one reason that number remains so darn low.

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