The housing market didn’t get off to a great start in 2015, as existing-home sales in January fell to the lowest level in nine months.
The National Association of Realtors reported that home sales fell 4.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 4.95 million rate.
December’s data saw a mild upward revision to 5.07 million from an initially reported 5.04 million.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, attributed the decline to a lack of housing supply and rising prices.
The median existing-home price was $199,600, which is 6.2% above January 2014 levels. Inventory edged up 0.5% to 1.87 million homes, or a 4.7 month supply at the current sales price.
Yun added that low mortgage rates are generating interest, but the lack of new and affordable listings is delaying decisions.
Other factoids from the January report:
• All-cash sales were 27% of all transactions, up from 26% in December but down from 33% in January 2014.
• Distressed sales were 11% of all sales, unchanged from December.
• Properties typically stayed on the market slightly longer in January (69 days) than December (66 days) and a year ago (67 days).
• The share of first-time buyers declined to 28% in January, the lowest since June.
“Today a somewhat softer-than-expected report is a further sign that housing is still struggling to gain altitude although we expect further signs of recovery in the next two to three years as the improving job market encourages more first-time buyers,” said Peter Buchanan, an economist at CIBC World Markets.