Home sales accelerate to a nearly 10-year high

WASHINGTON — The nation’s housing market got off to a healthy start in January, with sales and prices rising and the pace of home sales hitting their highest level in almost a decade.

The National Association of Realtors says existing home sales, which represent completed sales and likely reflect contracts signed a month or two earlier, were up 3.3 percent nationally from December, and up 3.8 percent from a year ago, to an annual rate of 5.69 million homes, the strongest pace since February 2007.

The median price for existing homes of all types in January was up 7.1 percent from a year earlier.

The big problem, and one of the main drivers of rising prices, remains the low number of properties on the market for sale.

While total housing inventory at the end of January rose 2.4 percent, it’s still more than 7 percent lower than a year ago.

Unsold homes represent a 3.6 month supply. Six months of inventory is considered a balanced market — one that benefits buyers and sellers equally.

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