Steel Markets

NAR: Existing-Home Sales Fell in December

Written by David Schollaert

Existing-home sales contracted in December, snapping a streak of three consecutive months of gain, reported the National Association of Realtors. Although sales fell in all four U.S. regions last month on both a month-over-month and a year-over-year basis, overall sales for 2021 were up 8.5% versus the prior year.

December sales fell 4.6% from November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.18 million. Total registered sales of 6.65 million were down by 7.1% from a year ago.

“December saw sales retreat, but the pull back was more a sign of supply constraints than an indication of a weakened demand for housing,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Sales for the entire year finished strong, reaching the highest annual level since 2006.”

Existing-home sales are expected to slow slightly in the coming months, said Yun, due to higher mortgage rates. He noted, however, that recent employment gains and stricter underwriting standards ensure home sales are in no danger of crashing. Rates are forecasted to remain below 4% by year-end and wages to hold firm due to a tight labor market.

The median existing-home price rose 15.8% from December 2020 to $358,000. All regions posted increased pricing in December, marking the 118th straight month of year-over-year gains, and the longest-running streak on record.

“This year, consumers should prepare to endure some increases in mortgage rates,” Yun said. “I also expect home prices to grow more moderately by 3% to 5% in 2022, and then similarly in 2023 as more supply reaches the market.”

Total housing inventory at the end of December fell 18.0% from November to 910,000 units, down 14.2% from one year ago. Inventory is at a 1.8-month supply at the current sales pace. Properties averaged 19 days on the market in December, one day more than November’s total, but down 21 days from the same period a year ago.

“We saw inventory numbers hit an all-time low in December,” Yun added. “Home builders have already made strides in 2022 to increase supply, but reversing gaps like the ones we’ve seen recently will take years to correct.” 

NAR reports that 79% of homes sold in December were on the market for less than a month. First-time buyers accounted for 30% of sales last month, up from 26% in November and down from 31% year on year.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 3.10% in December, up from 3.07% in November. The average commitment rate across all of 2021 was 2.96%.

By David Schollaert,


David Schollaert

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