Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The number of existing-home sales was at its lowest in three years last month despite lower mortgage rates, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.
Existing-home sales decreased 1.4 percent in January to an annual rate of 4.94 million, the association said. The association's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said in a statement that the 4.94 million figure was the lowest since November 2015.
The median existing-home price was $247,500, up 2.8 percent from a year ago. Yun noted that the growth in home prices was the slowest since 2012, but he expects it will start to improve.
"Lower mortgage rates from December 2018 had little impact on January sales, however, the lower rates will inevitably lead to more home sales," Yun said.
The three-year low comes amid the pace of existing-home sales dropping slightly for the third consecutive month in January, according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales slowed down in three of the four major U.S. regions. The Northeast, which had an increase in sales last month, was the only exception.
Sales in January were also down 8.5 percent from last year, when sales were 5.40 million.
The decline indicates that the market needs more than lower mortgage rates to recover.
Still, Yun said in a statement that he doesn't expect a further decline going forward.
"Existing home sales in January were weak compared to historical norms; however, they are likely to have reached a cyclical low," Yun said. "Moderating home prices combined with gains in household income will boost housing affordability, bringing more buyers to the market in the coming months."
Existing-home sales account for 90 percent of total home sales and are based on contracts closing. New-home sales, which are based on contracts being signed, account for the rest of the market.