Home Sales Surge Gives Realtors Spring Fever

Inventory is down, bolstering hopes for a healthier housing market.

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Home sales in January surged to their highest level in almost two years, offering what experts hope is a preview of a healthy spring buying season.

Existing home sales, which include everything from single-family homes to condos to co-ops, increased more than 4 percent last month, according to the National Association of Realtors, hitting figures not seen since spring 2010.

"The uptrend in home sales is in line with all of the underlying fundamentals—pent-up household formation, record-low mortgage interest rates, bargain home prices, sustained job creation, and rising rents," Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said in a statement.

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Meanwhile, the inventory of homes for sale continued to decline, another sign that the housing market might finally be getting a break. At the end of January, more than 2.3 million homes were for sale, representing a six-month supply at the current sales pace, down slightly from December's numbers, but almost 21 percent lower than total inventory a year ago.

That trend has bolstered confidence in the market's ability to work through the excess supply without government intervention.

"Foreclosure sales are moving swiftly with ready home buyers and investors competing in nearly all markets," Yun said. "A government proposal to turn bank-owned properties into rentals on a large scale does not appear to be needed at this time."

mhandley@usnews.com

Twitter: @mmhandley

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