Home Sales Were the Lowest in Almost 30 Years in 2023

High mortgage rates, prices made home buying prohibitively expensive for many last year

Updated Jan. 19, 2024 2:59 pm ET

Home-shopping activity has started to tick up, real-estate agents say. PHOTO: JIM LO SCALZO/SHUTTERSTOCK

Home sales last year dropped to the lowest level in nearly three decades, after elevated mortgage rates and a lack of homes for sale shut out buyers.

Existing-home sales slid 19% in 2023 from the prior year to 4.09 million, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. That total was lower than during the subprime crisis and the lowest full-year level since 1995. But the housing market is showing some signs of life as mortgage rates ease, and it’s possible that last year represented a bottom for sales activity.

After two years of soaring home sales that started during the pandemic as people sought more space and new locations, the housing market skidded to a halt in mid-2022.

Sales activity last year got off to a better-than-expected start, when mortgage rates retreated and some buyers rushed to take advantage of easing borrowing costs. Then rates began to rise again and the supply of homes for sale stalled at very low levels, keeping the market frozen.If rates continue to fall, more homeowners who want to move but have feared paying a significantly higher mortgage rate on their next home may feel more comfortable listing their houses.

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