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Existing-Home Sales Experience Slight Dip in December

As the housing market continues to moderate, existing-home sales retreated for the eleventh consecutive month in December, according to the National Association of Realtors. Three of the four major U.S. regions recorded month-over-month drops, while sales in the West were unchanged. All regions experienced year-over-year declines.

Total existing-home sales – completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – decreased 1.5% from November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.02 million in December. Year-over-year, sales sagged 34.0%, down from 6.09 million in December 2021.

Key Highlights

  • Existing-home sales faded for the eleventh straight month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.02 million. Sales waned 1.5% from November and 34.0% from one year ago.
  • The median existing-home sales price climbed 2.3% from the previous year to $366,900.
  • Existing-home sales totaled 5.03 million in 2022, down 17.8% from 2021, as last year’s rapidly escalating interest rate environment weighed on the residential real estate market.

“December was another difficult month for buyers, who continue to face limited inventory and high mortgage rates,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “However, expect sales to pick up again soon since mortgage rates have markedly declined after peaking late last year.”

Total housing inventory registered at the end of December was 970,000 units, which was down 13.4% from November but up 10.2% from one year ago (880,000). Unsold inventory sits at a 2.9-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 3.3 months in November but up from 1.7 months in December 2021.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in December was $366,900, an increase of 2.3% from December 2021 ($358,800), as prices rose in all regions. This marks 130 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, the longest-running streak on record.

“Home prices nationwide are still positive, though mildly,” said Yun. “Markets in roughly half of the country are likely to offer potential buyers discounted prices compared to last year.”

Properties typically remained on the market for 26 days in December, up from 24 days in November and 19 days in December 2021. Fifty-seven percent of homes sold in December 2022 were on the market for less than a month.

First-time buyers were responsible for 31% of sales in December, up from 28% in November and 30% in December 2021. NAR’s 2022 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released in November 2022 – found that the annual share of first-time buyers was 26%, the lowest since NAR began tracking the data.

All-cash sales accounted for 28% of transactions in December, up from 26% in November and 23% in December 2021.

“Cash buyers are unaffected by fluctuations in mortgage rates and were able to take advantage of lower prices in some areas,” Yun said.

Individual investors or second-home buyers, who make up many cash sales, purchased 16% of homes in December, up from 14% in November but down from 17% in December 2021.

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – represented 1% of sales in December, virtually unchanged from last month and one year ago.

According to Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.15% as of January 19. That’s down from 6.33% last week, but up from 3.56% one year ago.

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales declined to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.60 million in December, down 1.1% from 3.64 million in November and 33.5% from the previous year. The median existing single-family home price was $372,700 in December, up 2.0% from December 2021.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 420,000 units in December, down 4.5% from November and 38.2% from one year ago. The median existing condo price was $317,200 in December, an annual increase of 3.3%.

“Realtors helped millions of Americans achieve the dream of homeownership in the midst of a housing market that experienced some tough headwinds last year,” said NAR President Kenny Parcell, a Realtor from Spanish Fork, Utah, and broker-owner of Equity Real Estate Utah. “In 2023, we’ll continue to work with legislators and real estate leaders at all levels to address inventory shortages and increase access to homeownership.”

Regional Breakdown

Existing-home sales in the Northeast slid 1.9% from November to an annual rate of 520,000 in December, down 28.8% from December 2021. The median price in the Northeast was $391,400, an increase of 1.6% from the prior year.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest fell 1.0% from the previous month to an annual rate of 1.01 million in December, falling 30.3% from one year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $262,000, up 2.9% from December 2021.

In the South, existing-home sales slipped 2.2% in December from November to an annual rate of 1.80 million, a 33.1% decrease from the previous year. The median price in the South was $337,900, an increase of 3.5% from this time last year.

At an annual rate of 690,000, existing-home sales in the West were unchanged from November but down 43.4% from one year ago. The median price in the West was $557,900, an increase of $200, or less than a tenth of a percent from December 2021.

To read the full report, including more data, charts and methodology, click here.

About Author: Demetria Lester

Demetria C. Lester is a reporter for DS News and MReport magazines with more than eight years' writing experience. She has served as content coordinator and copy editor for the Los Angeles Daily News, the Orange County Register, in addition to 11 other Southern California publications. A former editor-in-chief at Northlake College and staff writer at her alma mater, the University of Texas at Arlington, she has covered events such as the Byron Nelson and Pac-12 Conferences, progressing into her freelance work with the Dallas Wings and D Magazine. Currently located in Dallas, Texas, Lester is a jazz aesthete and loves to read. She can be reached at [email protected]
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