Winter storms in many parts of the country caused delays in appraisals and closings, leading January home sales to plummet 26.9 percent over the month, according to the RE/MAX National Housing Report for January. Meanwhile, tight inventory continues to drive up home prices, and homes continue to fly off the market rather quickly.
While home sales were down nearly 27 percent over the month, they were down 7.1 percent from January last year, according to the RE/MAX report, which includes data from 52 metros across the nation.
"We usually expect to see fewer home sales in the winter months, but January experienced particularly severe storms in large parts of the country, which disrupted appraisals, inspections and closings," said Margaret Kelly, CEO of RE/MAX.
She added, however, that "the real story for home sales in 2014 will begin to unfold in the coming spring and summer months."
The median home price declined over the month – falling 6.3 percent to $173,475. However, January's median price continued a 24-month trend of year-over-year increases, rising 11.6 percent since January 2013. Forty-five of the 52 markets observed reported year-over-year home price gains in January.
The year-over-year rise in home prices is a reflection of the tight inventory that has persisted into this year, according to RE/MAX. As of January, the market holds 5.3 months' supply of homes, which is lower than the inventory reported a month ago and a year ago.
A few markets are experiencing inventories far below the national average. RE/MAX found the lowest inventories in Denver, Colorado (1.1 month); San Francisco, California (1.4 months); Los Angeles, California (2.5 months); Boston, Massachusetts (2.7 months); San Diego, California (2.7 months); Houston, Texas (2.7 months); and Seattle, Washington (2.7 months).
Metros with the greatest yearly home price gains in January include: Detroit, Michigan (35.2 percent); Atlanta, Georgia (28.6 percent); Las Vegas, Nevada (23.5 percent); San Francisco, California (22.3 percent); Los Angeles, California (20.2 percent); and Miami, Florida (18.7 percent).
For homes sold in January, the average number of days on market was 75. "The low Days on Market average is associated with continued high demand and a reduced inventory of homes for sale," according to RE/MAX.