Home Sales are Brisk…with a Caveat

By Greg Sax on Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Jan-median-sales-price We released our monthly stats news release today. Here's what we said:

Low mortgage rates and an ample supply of affordable properties kept January home sales strong despite a month of harsh weather.

Pending sales during the month posted a figure of 2,827, an increase of 10.3 percent from last January. This is the eighth consecutive month of year-over-year increase. Closed sales saw an increase of 2.1 percent in January, posting 2,010 units. A growing share of this jump in buyer demand can be found in lender-mediated foreclosures and short sales.

The overall January median sales price of $155,000 is 24.4 percent and a $50,000 lower than last January's mark of $205,000. However, a staggering 59.9 percent of closed sales in January were from the lender-mediated segment, which had a dramatic downward effect on the overall median sales price.

Traditional properties, which exclude foreclosures and short sales, had a January median sales price of $215,000, down 4.3 percent from last year, while lender-mediated homes had a median sales price of $122,000, down 21.4 percent for the same year-over-year comparison.

Housing affordability also tells a tale of two markets. Lender-mediated properties currently have a Housing Affordability Index (HAI) of an astounding 245, while traditional properties have an HAI of 154, a mark last seen in 2004. The overall HAI jumped another 10 points in the last month, and currently sits at 202. This means that the current median family income is 202 percent of what's necessary to qualify for the median-priced home. This is a new record and up 35.6 percent from last year.

Housing supply continues to draw down. There are almost 3,000 fewer houses for sale than there were one year ago, and new listings in January were 15.7 percent lower than in 2008.

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