Frigid temps and a shortage of listings helped keep home buyers on the couch last month, according to new data released this morning by the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors. During January there were 2,536 home sales, a 12.8-percent decline compared with last year. Despite that decline, the median price of those sales increased 12.4 percent to $179,900 because there were far fewer foreclosure sales but a healthy  increase in upper-bracket sales.

Though the slowdown in sales might suggest that buyer demand is stumbling, there are reasons to suggest otherwise. New listings last month fell 11.5 percent, leaving buyers with a dwindling number of choices. Sellers are still getting a high percentage of their asking price and houses are selling faster than they were last year - on average houses sold within 93 days , a 12.3 percent decline compared with last year.

“Would-be sellers have an opportunity to benefit from inventory levels and get ahead of the spring market if they list their property,” said Michael Hunstad, president of the Saint Paul Area Association of Realtors. “Buyers can also be ready to act on a purchase while good deals are available.”

We'll have a complete story in the Thursday paper.

- Jim Buchta

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