By Josh Boak
From staff, wire reports
Sales of existing U.S. homes plummeted in January to the worst pace in 18 months.
Cold weather, limited supplies of homes on the market and higher buying costs held back purchases, analysts said.
The Akron area defied that downward trend, however, with sales in January up compared with figures from a year ago.
In Summit County, 334 homes changed hands last month. That’s up 14.4 percent from the 292 sold in January last year and down from the 464 sold in December, according to the Akron Area Board of Realtors.
Summit home sales are not adjusted for seasonal variations.
Sale prices in Summit County were down from a year ago, with the median price in January dropping 7.1 percent from $113,000 to $105,000. The median for January 2012 was $84,000. Area real estate agents have said that in 2012, purchases of lower-priced, foreclosed and other so-called distressed properties were putting a drag on prices.
Sales also were up slightly in January in the larger Northeast Ohio region that includes Summit, Stark, Portage, Medina and Cuyahoga counties.
In that region, 1,977 single-family homes were sold in January, according to the Northern Ohio Regional Multiple Listing Service (MLS). That’s up 1.4 percent from 1,950 in January 2013.
The average sale price of single-family homes in this 15-county area in January was $122,601. That’s up 6.9 percent from $114,680 for the same month last year.
The Northern Ohio MLS does not provide a median sale price.
Condominium sales rose 9.5 percent from January 2013 in the 15 counties.
Statewide, sales of homes and condominiums in January dropped nearly 5 percent to 6,972 from the 7,329 sold in January last year. It was the first year-over-year decline in 30 months.
“Certainly, the extreme weather conditions throughout the state during the month contributed to the downturn,” said Chris Hall, president of the Ohio Association of Realtors in a statement.
Meanwhile, sale prices, on the average, were up statewide, rising to $127,327 last month. That’s a 5.6 percent increase from the $120,533 mark posted during January last year.
The Ohio Association of Realtors does not provide a median price.
The National Association of Realtors said Friday that sales nationwide fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million units last month. That was down 5.1 percent from the December pace. The sales rate declined 5.1 percent over the previous 12 months.
Higher mortgage rates and higher prices have contributed to a slowdown in home buying in five of the past six months. Freezing temperatures and snowstorms over large parts of the country this winter have caused most housing activity to slip.
Flagging sales suggest a deceleration from the momentum for much of 2013, when 5.09 million homes were sold, the most in seven years.
“Such a picture confirms that the U.S. housing market reached its peak at the end of 2013 and further reacceleration is unlikely near term,” Annalisa Piazza of Newedge Strategy said in a research note.
Home building dipped 16 percent in January from December, the Commerce Department said this week. Signed contracts to buy homes plunged in December, foreshadowing the January drop-off, the Realtors said in a separate report.
The weather has kept would-be buyers from venturing to open houses, while construction crews have endured work stoppages.
Beacon Journal business writer Katie Byard contributed to this report.