U.S. pre-owned home sales in biggest fall for three years

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Sales of existing homes in Northwest Indiana grew in January as compared to a year ago, but not by as much as prices, continuing a trend in the seven counties that make up the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors.

Sales of previously owned US homes unexpectedly fell in January to a four-month low, indicating a shortage of available properties is increasingly hindering the real-estate industry, a National Association of Realtors report showed Wednesday.

Sales were 4.8% down from January 2017, the largest annual drop since August 2014 (5.5%) and were at the slowest pace since September 2017 (5.37 million). The median existing home price for all housing types in January was $240,500, up 5.8% from the same month a year ago.

"The utter lack of sufficient housing supply and its influence on higher home prices muted overall sales activity in much of the U.S. last month", he said.

Unsold homes on the market is at a 3.4-month supply at the current sales pace down from 3.6 months a year ago. A separate report on January sales of new homes is due out Monday.

"The gradual uptick in wages over the last few months is a promising development for the housing market, but there's risk these income gains could be offset by the recent jump in mortgage rates", Yun said. Inventory was down 9.5% from the January 2017 level. All told, 43 percent of homes sold were on the market for less than one month. While the tax legislation also limits the deduction for mortgage interest on more expensive homes, signaling demand may cool in areas of the country where the cost of a house is well above the national median, the Realtors group said there's little evidence yet that it's having an impact.

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First-time buyers made up 29 percent of all sales, compared with 33 percent a year earlier.

Twenty-two percent of existing-home sales in January were all-cash, with 17 percent by individual investors.

"Sales have been consistent with our forecast for the beginning of the year, on par with the level seen in 2017, and potentially slightly lower as inventory levels remain restrictive and mortgage rates increase", says Ruben Gonzalez, economist for Keller Williams.

Properties sold in January typically stayed on the market for 42 days, down from 50 days a year ago.

The decline was driven by drops in single-family home sales in the West and Midwest.

A total of 601 sales in January topped the same month in 2017 by 1.5 percent, according to GNIAR's Multiple Listing Service.