December home sales show slight improvement

Total existing-home sales edged up by 1.0% in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.87 million, making the full-year count for 2013 the highest since 2006, according to the National Association of Realtors.

“Existing-home sales have risen nearly 20% since 2011, with job growth, record low mortgage interest rates and a large pent-up demand driving the market,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “We lost some momentum toward the end of 2013 from disappointing job growth and limited inventory, but we ended with a year that was close to normal given the size of our population.”

The total estimate for 2013 came in at 5.09 million units sold, up 9.1% over 2012. At the peak of the housing bubble in 2006, sales reached 6.48 million.

December's count is an improvement over November's downwardly revised figure of 4.82 million, but is also 0.6% below December 2012's 4.90 million-unit rate.

In terms of single-family homes, sales were up 1.9% to a rate of 4.30 million in December, though this was 0.7% below December 2012's rate.

The median-home price for December came in at $198,000, up 9.9% since last year. Meanwhile, prices for the year stayed strong with an 11.5% increase over 2012; the median existing-home price for all of 2013 was $197,100. This was the strongest year-over-year gain since 2005.

Total housing inventory fell 9.3% to 1.86 million existing homes for sale in December, representing a 4.6-month supply at the current sales pace. This is down from November's 5.1-month supply.

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