U.S. real estate agents are reporting a sharp decline in the number of sales for the first time since 2009, according to the latest data released by the National Association of Realtors.
The numbers from the Association of Real Estate Brokers, the nation’s largest association of real estate professionals, show that total sales dropped 5.6 percent in January from the same month last year, the worst annual decline since 2009.
In January 2018, the number had climbed 5.4 percent.
The national decline has been especially severe for Florida, which has seen record sales in January and February, according a statement from the association.
The numbers for January are down by 12.6 million homes, according the statement, which is down 12.7 percent from the first month of 2017.
The number of homes sold for the January 2018 calendar year is down by 4.9 million homes.
The decline in sales was driven by a number of factors, including weak housing demand, a stronger dollar and a decline in supply of homes.
The housing market in Florida is struggling, with median home prices in the state dropping 4.6 percentage points over the past year.
For many, the latest sales decline is an unwelcome reality.
Real estate agents said they are now trying to keep the market healthy by holding off on sales for a longer time.
They are also urging consumers to get the home they want.
“We don’t want to see a lot of buyers in the market, but we can’t afford to let too many people out of the market,” said Jim O’Hara, president of the Association’s Florida office.
“We’re just going to keep working at it and try to get more homes sold and to make sure the market is healthy.”
More:A shortage of homes and high demand for homes is hurting sales nationwide, and Florida is no exception, said Joe Perna, president and chief executive officer of the Real Estate Board of Florida.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, that there are a lot more homes being sold now than ever before,” Pernas said.
“There are a number people that are looking to buy right now, but if we don’t see a huge uptick in home sales, that will only make the market worse.”
In January, the Florida Department of Financial Institutions estimated that the state had 2.1 million mortgages on its books, but a lot is not yet finalized.
The agency said the foreclosure rate is the highest in the country at about 17 percent, and that Florida is in a rental market with limited options.
Perna said Florida is working to find ways to provide homeowners with financial help if they have lost their homes.
“If a borrower loses their home, we need to help them in any way that we can,” he said.