Existing-Home Sales: Retreat for 11th Consecutive Month

This article was originally written by Doug Short. From 2016-2022, it was improved upon and updated by Jill Mislinski. Starting in January 2023, AP Charts pages will be maintained by Jennifer Nash at Advisor Perspectives/VettaFi.


This morning's release of the December existing home sales showed that sales fell slightly to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.02 million units from the previous month's 4.08 million. The Investing.com consensus was for 3.96 million. The latest number represents a 1.5% decrease from the previous month and its eleventh in a row. December saw a 34.0% decrease YoY.

Here is an excerpt from today's report from the National Association of Realtors.

WASHINGTON (January 20, 2023) – Existing-home sales retreated for the eleventh consecutive month in December, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Three of the four major U.S. regions recorded month-over-month drops, while sales in the West were unchanged. All regions experienced year-over-year declines.

Total existing-home sales,1 https://www.nar.realtor/existing-home-sales – completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – decreased 1.5% from November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.02 million in December. Year-over-year, sales sagged 34.0% (down from 6.09 million in December 2021).

“December was another difficult month for buyers, who continue to face limited inventory and high mortgage rates,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “However, expect sales to pick up again soon since mortgage rates have markedly declined after peaking late last year.” [Full Report]

In terms of median home sales prices among all homes, here's the latest:

The median existing-home price3 for all housing types in December was $366,900, an increase of 2.3% from December 2021 ($358,800), as prices rose in all regions. This marks 130 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, the longest-running streak on record.

For a longer-term perspective, here is a snapshot of the data series, which comes from the National Association of Realtors. The data since January 1999 was previously available in the St. Louis Fed's FRED repository and is now only available for the last twelve months.

Existing Home Sales

Over this time frame, we clearly see the real estate bubble, which peaked in 2005 and then fell dramatically. Sales were volatile for the first year or so following the great recession.

The population-adjusted reality

Now let's examine the data with a simple population adjustment. The Census Bureau's mid-month population estimates show a 20% increase in the US population since the turn of the century. The snapshot below is an overlay of the NAR's annualized estimates with a population-adjusted version.

Existing Home Sales Growth

Existing home sales are 23.1% below the NAR's January 2000 estimate. The population-adjusted version is 35.2% below the turn-of-the-century sales.

The next release of existing home sales will be on February 21.