December US home sales fall, capping nearly 18% drop in 2022

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes slumped nearly 18% in 2022, the slowest year for the housing market in nearly a decade.

The National Association of Realtors said Friday that existing home sales totaled 5.03 million last year, a 17.8% decline from 2021. That marks the weakest year for home sales since 2014 and the biggest annual decline since 2008, following the foreclosure crisis of the late 2000s.

Even so, the median national home price for all of last year jumped 10.2% to $386,300, the NAR said.

Mortgage rates more than doubled in 2022, climbing to a two-decade high of 7.08% in the fall as the Federal Reserve continued to boost its key lending rate in its quest to cool the economy and tame inflation. Home sales slowed from a torrid pace at the start of the year as the surge in borrowing costs limited home hunters’ buying power.

The average rate on a 30-year mortgage rate fell this week to 6.15%, its lowest level since September, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. Still, it remains nearly double the 3.56% average rate a year ago.

Existing home sales fell in December for the 11th month in a row to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.02 million, the NAR said. That’s slightly better than what economists were expecting, according to FactSet.

December’s sales sank 34% from a year earlier. Excluding the steep slowdown in sales that occurred in May 2020 near the start of the pandemic, sales last month skidded to the slowest annual pace since November 2010.

Despite the slowdown, home prices continued to rise last month. The national median home sales price rose 2.3% in December from a year earlier to $366,900, the NAR said.

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