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Ohio home sales dipped from December to January but bested early 2014 levels – cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Home sales slipped from December to January across the Buckeye State and the nation. But 2015 started off stronger than last year for the housing market.

Statewide sales of new and previously owned homes dropped 6.2 percent from December, the Ohio Association of Realtors said Monday. That decline mirrored a national dip, of 4.9 percent, in existing-home sales, based on seasonally adjusted annual rates calculated by the National Association of Realtors.

Still, sales topped January 2014 levels in Ohio and across the country.

The Ohio Realtors said sales were up 4.2 percent last month, when compared with a year before. The national Realtors, who limit their focus to previously owned homes, said U.S. sales were 3.2 percent higher in January than they were a year earlier. National data on sales of new homes will be released Wednesday.

Greg Hrabcak, president of the Ohio Realtors, painted the January numbers as part of a natural cycle of ups and downs.

“The market is well-positioned for current and would-be homeowners, as we’re experiencing steady price growth and attractive interest rates,” he said in a written statement. “We remain hopeful that the low inventories of homes currently being marketed for sale will rise as we head into the spring market.”

Economists met Monday’s national report with mixed reviews.

Bill Banfield, a vice president with Quicken Loans, called the falloff in December-to-January sales “a bit concerning.”

He and other economists cited low inventory – the limited pool of properties listed for sale – as a challenge that continues to hamper housing.

“January housing data can be volatile because of seasonal influences, but low housing supply and the ongoing rise in home prices above the pace of inflation appeared to slow sales, despite interest rates remaining near historic lows,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the national Realtors, said in a written statement. “Realtors are reporting that low rates are attracting potential buyers, but the lack of new and affordable listings is leading some to delay decisions.”

The average sale price for a new or existing home in Ohio was $137,464 last month, up 8 percent from a year before.

The national Realtors track median – or middle – sale prices, instead of averages. The nationwide median price for a previously owned home was $199,600 in January, up 6.2 percent.

Economists at IHS Global Insight pointed to rising prices, which enable more homeowners to list their properties for sale, as a positive sign.

“Existing home sales are taking a bumpy road towards recovery, but all is not lost,” Patrick Newport and Stephanie Karol, the IHS economists, wrote in a research note. “Investor activity is much lower than it was at the beginning of last year, and the actual volume of sales to non-investors surpassed year-ago levels for the sixth straight month in January.

“The overall picture,” they added, “is looking brighter than it did this time last year.”

Ohio home sales dipped from December to January but bested early 2014 levels – cleveland.com

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