[WASHINGTON] US home resales fell sharply to their lowest level in nine months in January amid a shortage of properties on the market, a setback that could temper expectations for an acceleration in housing activity this year.
The National Association of Realtors said on Monday existing home sales declined 4.9 per cent to an annual rate of 4.82 million units, the lowest level since April last year.
December's sales pace was revised up to 5.07 million units from a previously reported 5.04 million units.
Revisions to sales data going back to 2012 were minor. Sales slumped last month despite a decline in mortgage rates, which saw the 30-year rate hitting a 20-month low.
Tight inventories are hurting sales by limiting the selection of houses available to potential buyers. The lack of supply is also keeping house prices elevated, helping to sideline first-time buyers from the market.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast existing home sales falling only to a 4.97-million unit pace last month. Sales were up 3.2 per cent from a year ago.
Last month, the inventory of unsold homes on the market slipped 0.5 per cent from a year ago to 1.87 million. Economists say insufficient equity and uncertainty about the economy's strength were forcing potential sellers to stay in their homes.