Sales of previously owned U.S. homes dropped in January to the lowest level in more than a year as harsh winter weather combined with a lack of supply, strict lending rules and declining affordability to depress demand.
Purchases decreased 5.1 percent to a 4.62 million annual rate last month, the fewest since July 2012, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed today in Washington. Sales fell in all four regions of the country, indicating unusually frigid temperatures were only partly to blame.
The median forecast of 79 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected sales would drop to a 4.67 million rate. Estimates ranged from a 4.5 million pace to 4.9 million. December’s figure was unrevised at a 4.87 million pace.
Compared with a year earlier, purchases decreased 5.1 percent in January on an adjusted basis, today’s report showed. The median price of an existing home increased 10.7 percent from a year earlier to $188,900 in January.
The drop in sales was led by a 7.3 percent slump in the West, followed by a 7.1 percent decrease in the Midwest.
First-time buyers accounted for 26 percent of all purchases in January, the lowest in data going back to October 2008.
The number of existing properties on the market rose 7.3 percent from a year earlier to 1.9 million in January. At the current pace, it would take 4.9 months to sell those houses compared with 4.6 months at the end of December.