Sales of existing homes slipped throughout the region in January from a year ago, regional Multiple Listing Service data shows.

That contrasts with a National Association of Realtors report Thursday showing a countrywide increase in single-family homes, condominiums and townhouses.

Nationally, home sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million in January, a slight increase from last month and about 9 percent higher than a year ago, the Realtor Association said.

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In Atlantic County, 154 MLS-listed homes were sold, six fewer than January 2012. In Cape May County, there were 120 homes sold, 26 less than a year ago. And in Cumberland County, sales dropped by five, to 28 homes.

As a judicial review state, New Jersey is slowly working through its distressed properties, which has meant a slower real estate market turnaround than in non-judicial states, said Peter Reinhart, director of the Kislak Real Estate Institute at Monmouth University.

Homebuyers now face tighter mortgage qualifying standards and need higher credit scores and heftier down payments, he said.

“I think (homebuyers now) are more influenced by their personal situations, how they feel about their jobs, if they need a bigger house for their growing family, and interest rates. They are probably as much as a factor as anything,” he said.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.41 percent in January, still near historic lows but slightly higher than the period from October to December.

When interest rates tick up slightly, it has historically been a good time for home sales, as potential homebuyers worry about missing the bottom, Reinhart said.

“If they keep going up obviously it has a negative impact, it used to be a little tick up was a good thing,” he said.

Area counties, as well as the national market, are coming off a 2012 of sales growth.

Sales volume last year grew 19 percent in Cape May County, 11 percent in Atlantic County and 9 percent in Cumberland County, according to regional MLS data.

The National Association of Realtors said January’s total housing inventory for sale represents about a four-month supply, the lowest since April 2005.

“Buyer traffic is 40 percent above a year ago, so there is plenty of demand but insufficient inventory to improve sales more strongly,” Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, some shore real estate markets are dealing with uncertainty caused by Hurricane Sandy, Reinhart said.

“It really threw a monkey wrench in trying to analyze where the second homeowner market will go,” Reinhart said. “We have to get through this summer season, see how the rentals went on Long Beach Island and other places.”

The National Association of Realtors said distressed homes — which include foreclosures and short sales — made up 23 percent of January sales. Foreclosures sold for an average 20 percent below market value, short sales for 12 percent below.

Meanwhile, a report released Thursday by the Mortgage Bankers Association said New Jersey ranked ninth natioinally in mortgage delinquencies and ninth in foreclosure starts.

By the end of the fourth quarter of 2012, New Jersey’s delinquency rate for mortgage loans on residential properties was about 9 percent, a figure that excludes loans in the middle of foreclosures, the association said.

Contact Brian Ianieri:


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