Existing home sales plunged 5.1% (considerably worse than the 4.1% drop expected) to its lowest level in 18 months. This extends the string of missed expectations to 5 months as even the ever-credible NAR chief economist said it was not the weather but “we can’t ignore the ongoing headwinds of tight credit, limited inventory, higher prices and higher mortgage interest rates.” First-time homebuyers plunged to a mere 26% of the total – the lowest share on record as all-cash (and spec) investors rose to a record 53% share of sales.
Key highlights from the report:
NAR President Steve Brown, co-owner of Irongate, Inc., Realtors® in Dayton, Ohio, said that in addition to disruptive weather, higher flood insurance rates are impacting the market in areas designated as flood zones, which account for roughly 8 to 9 percent of sales. “Thirty percent of transactions in flood zones were cancelled or delayed in January as a result of sharply higher flood insurance rates,” he said. “Since going into effect on October 1, 2013, about 40,000 home sales were either delayed or canceled because of increases and confusion over significantly higher flood insurance rates. The volume could accelerate as the market picks up this spring.”
The median time on market for all homes was 67 days in January, down from 72 days in December and 71 days on market in December 2013. Short sales were on the market for a median of 150 days in January, while foreclosures typically sold in 58 days and non-distressed homes took 66 days. Thirty-one percent of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month.
No first-time homebuying. Anywhere:
First-time buyers accounted for 26 percent of purchases in January, down from 27 percent in December and 30 percent in January 2013. This is the lowest market share for first-time buyers since NAR began monthly measurement in October 2008; normally, they should be closer to 40 percent.
And your bubble full-frontal: 53% of all sales were either to “all cash” or investors “flippers”:
All-cash sales comprised 33 percent of transactions in January, up from 32 percent in December and 28 percent in January 2013. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 20 percent of homes in January, compared with 21 percent in December and 19 percent in January 2013. Seven out of 10 investors paid cash in January.
Goodbye housing recovery, snow or no snow.