Sales of previously owned U.S. homes unexpectedly rose in January to the second-highest pace since early 2007, indicating the industry will keep prospering.
Closings, which usually take place a month or two after a contract is signed, advanced 0.4 percent to a 5.47 million annual rate, the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday in Washington. Prices climbed from January 2015 as the number of dwellings on the market fell.
Near record-low mortgage rates, steady job gains and better wage growth are helping encourage prospective buyers, including first-time purchasers. Further strengthening in residential real estate will support the economy and make up for weakness in manufacturing tied to weaker global growth.
“Consumers are pretty keen to purchase a home,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, an economist at TD Securities in New York. “Slow and steady growth is what we want. It’s really positive for the U.S. economy in general.”
The January sales pace was the second-strongest since February 2007. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 5.33 million annualized rate, with estimates ranging from 5.08 million to 5.55 million. December’s pace was revised to 5.45 million from an originally reported 5.46 million.
Compared with a year earlier, purchases increased 7.5 percent in January before adjusting for seasonal variations.
The median price of an existing home rose 8.2 percent from January 2015 to $213,800. The appreciation was led by an 8.7 percent year-to-year advance in the Midwest and an 8.5 percent gain in the South.