Total existing-home sales dropped by 6.4 percent from November
to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.99 million in December. Sales were down 10.3 percent from the 5.56 million level in December 2017. The median existing-home price for all housing types in December was $253,600, up 2.9 percent from $246,500 one year earlier. December was the 82nd straight month of year-over-year median price gains.
The total housing inventory at the end of December was 1.55 million, down from 1.74 million existing homes available for sale in November, but an increase from 1.46 million one year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 3.7-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 3.9 last month and up from 3.2 months in December 2017. Properties stayed on the market for an average of 46 days in December, up from 42 days in November and 40 days one year ago.
First-time buyers accounted for 32 percent of sales in December, down slightly from 33 percent in the previous month and unchanged from the previous year. All-cash sales accounted for 22 percent of transactions in December, up from 21 percent in November and 20 percent in December 2017.
“The housing market is obviously very sensitive to mortgage rates,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s Chief Economist. “Softer sales in December reflected consumer search processes and contract signing activity in previous months when mortgage rates were higher than today. Now, with mortgage rates lower, some revival in home sales is expected going into spring.”
Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting, "Looking ahead, many potential homebuyers still face affordability challenges, but we do expect this to dissipate slowly, as there have been more signs of moderating home-price growth and accelerating wage growth, which should help bridge the affordability gap. With lower mortgage rates to start 2019, and a pickup in purchase applications in recent weeks, we are cautiously optimistic that the spring homebuying season will bring better news.”