January housing report: Too cold to shop

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When temperatures are described as life threatening, it keeps house hunters from going out to look for new residential property.

The Pioneer Press reports the number of pending and closed sales of metro area houses dropped in January, just like the temperature.

Figures released Wednesday by the Minneapolis and St. Paul Associations of Realtors showed pending sales were down 16 percent in January, and closed sales were down 12.8 percent compared to January a year ago. The story noted that the Twin Cities real estate market traditionally cools in December and January, but this year's bitter temperatures apparently slowed the market more than what is typical.

MPR News reported that another reason for the reduction in sales is that fewer foreclosures and distressed properties remain on the market. Although that shift in housing patterns pulls down numbers, it's regarded as a sign of the market's health.

"As foreclosures and short sales move out of the system, it may temporarily bring down overall listing, inventory or sales activity, but the resulting move back toward a market of traditional properties is positive," Minneapolis Association of Realtors president Emily Green said in a statement.

The Star Tribune reports another positive in the monthly report is the median price of homes sold in the 13-country metro area. The newspaper says prices increased 12.4 percent to $179,900, with a healthy bump in upper-bracket sales pushing the number higher. There was an uptick of 14.4 percent in the median price in homes sold in Ramsey County, from $138,000 a year ago to $157,900 last month. In Hennepin County, the median price rose to $189,000 from $167,500.

Sellers continue to realize a high percentage of their asking price and houses are selling faster than they were at this time last year. The average time a house spends on the market is 93 days, a 12.3 percent decline compared to January of 2013.

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