Home sales jump more than 4 percent in January

US home sales rose by 4.3 percent in January, bringing good economic news to a battered real estate market, the Associated Press reported.

The mortgage crisis, which curbed home lending and led to a glut of unsold homes and a loss of consumer confidence, peaked when 3.1 percent of homes were unoccupied in the first quarter of 2008, according to the US Census Bureau

In a press release, the National Association of Realtors said, "Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 4.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.57 million in January."

Reuters reported that the supply was the lowest in seven years, point to a "nascent housing recovery." 

2.31 million unsold homes were for sale last month, "the lowest since March 2005." The newswire wrote that if January's pace holds, this means there is just a 6.1 month supply of homes for sale, the lowest since April 2006. Economists generally consider a 6 month supply to be ideal.

Lawrence Yun, an economist for NAR, said, “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.”

35 percent of the sales last month were discounted – either from foreclosures, short sales, or "distressed properties," said Reuters. 

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