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Property sales up in the US and building sector confidence increases

It shows that real estate sales are now 3.4% above levels seen a year earlier in the 53 metropolitan areas covered by the survey.

In January, the median price of homes sold in the 53 metros was $129,306, only 0.8% lower than a year earlier and a 3.4% drop from December.

Perhaps due to falling foreclosure numbers, for the 19th consecutive month, inventory levels dropped in January. The average inventory of homes for sale dropped 24.1% from a year earlier and 4.2% from December.

‘If sales continue ahead of last year’s pace and inventory does not increase significantly, we could start to see increasing home prices this year,’ said RE/MAX chief executive officer Margaret Kelly.

Of the metro areas included in the January survey, 20 saw double digit jumps from a year earlier, and 36 experienced higher sales, including Albuquerque up 33.9%, Wilmington-Dover, Delaware, up 33.2%, Atlanta up 26.3%, Indianapolis up 19.6%, Providence, Rhodes Island, up 19.6%, Nashville up 19.5%, Cleveland up 18.9% and Chicago up 15.3%.

Meanwhile, data from the Commerce Department shows that housing starts rose 1.5% in January, the highest level since October 2008.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, starts increased to 699,000 from 689,000 for December, which was revised upward by 32,000. January housing starts rose 9.9% from 636,000 a year earlier.
Analysts polled by Econoday expect housing starts to come in at 675,000 with a range of estimates between 640,000 and 736,000.

‘January’s housing starts data support our view that home builders are shaking off the shackles of the last five years and are beginning to contribute to GDP growth,’ said analysts at Capital Economics, but added; ‘That said, the housing sector is currently not big enough to set the economy alight’.

Figures from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development show that single family starts fell 1% last month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 508,000 units, down from an upwardly revised 513,000 for December.

But construction of multi family housing increased by 14% to an annualised rate of 175,000 in January.
And the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo housing market index shows that builder confidence is at a four year high.