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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

January Existing Home Sales: 5.36 million SAAR, 7.6 months of supply

by Calculated Risk on 2/23/2011 10:00:00 AM

The NAR reports: January Existing-Home Sales

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 2.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.36 million in January from a downwardly revised 5.22 million in December, and are 5.3 percent above the 5.09 million level in January 2010.
Total housing inventory at the end of January fell 5.1 percent to 3.38 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.6-month supply at the current sales pace, down from an 8.2-month supply in December. The inventory supply is at the lowest level since December 2009 when there was a 7.3-month supply.
Existing Home Sales Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph shows existing home sales, on a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) basis since 1993.

Sales in January 2010 (5.36 million SAAR) were 2.7% higher than last month, and were 5.3% higher than January 2010.

Existing Home InventoryThe second graph shows nationwide inventory for existing homes.

According to the NAR, inventory decreased to 3.38 million in January from 3.56 million in December.

Inventory is not seasonally adjusted and there is a clear seasonal pattern with inventory peaking in the summer and declining in the fall - and then really declining during the holidays. So this decline was expected. Inventory should start to increase again in February.

Existing Home Sales Months of SupplyThe last graph shows the 'months of supply' metric.

Months of supply decreased to 7.6 months in January from 8.2 months in December. The months of supply will probably increase over the next few months as sales slow a little, and inventory increases. This is still higher than normal.

These sales numbers were above the consensus of 5.2 million SAAR, and are above what I expected (Lawler's forecast was 5.17 million). I'll have more later.

Special Note: Back in January, I noted that it appeared the NAR had overestimated sales by 5% or so in 2007, and that the errors had increased since then (perhaps 10% or 15% or more in 2009 and 2010). I reported in January that the NAR was working on benchmarking existing home sales for earlier years with other industry data, and I expected "this effort will lead to significant downward revisions to previously reported sales". The numbers reported today were estimated using the old method and will probably be revised down significantly, but they are still useful on a month-to-month basis.