Pending Home Sales Up in Jan., Prices Down

The uptick in pending home sales marks the first year-over-year increase since April, when the data was heavily influenced by a tax credit.

Pending home sales in the 13-county metro area totaled 2,838 in January-a 3.7 percent jump from January 2010, according to a monthly report released Friday by the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors (MAAR).

The data marks the first year-over-year increase since April 2010, when stats were heavily influenced by a federal home-buyer's tax credit.

The median sales price, however, dropped during the month to $140,000, down nearly 11 percent from the same period a year ago.

According to the MAAR, this is because a larger portion of the homes sold in January this year were the result of foreclosures and short sales. Traditional sales-or non-foreclosures-actually saw a 1.9 percent uptick in median sales price to $201,500.

“Distressed homes made up more than half of the homes sold locally in January,” MAAR President Brad Fisher said in a statement. “Buyers tend to shop for value during the winter months, equating to lower prices, while traditional sales begin to warm up with the spring thaw.”

According to the MAAR, interest rates remain low, prices show “no signs of rapid rise,” and “affordability is soaring.”

Another sign that it's still a buyer's market, and sellers continue to face challenges: The inventory of homes on the market-23,880 in January-has jumped 14 percent from a year ago, despite a 15.6 percent drop in new listings on the market.

And the average number of days that a home spends on the market-146-has spiked more than 9 percent since January 2010.

“The economy remains the elephant in the room, and housing is not immune to market dynamics,” Cari Linn, MAAR president-elect, said in a news release. “Nevertheless, we're encouraged by the sales bump in January and look forward to a strong spring.”

The January data follows in the heels of an MAAR report for the full year of 2010. That report found that, throughout 2010, local home sales plummeted to their lowest level in eight years.

The MAAR, a provider of information services and research pertaining to the real estate industry, bases its reports on data from the Regional Multiple Listing Service of Minnesota, Inc. Its report analyzes 13 counties in the metro area.