By: Inman News
U.S. existing-home sales rose for the third straight month in December, finishing 2011 with a modest overall increase in sales from the year before, according to a report by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.
Sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condos and co-ops saw a 1.7 percent rise in 2011, to 4.26 million homes, from 4.19 million in 2010, the report said. Last month, NAR released adjusted estimates for home sales between 2007 and 2010. The 4.19 million cited for sales in 2010 is the "rebenchmarked" figure. Previously reported median home prices or months' supply of homes for sale were not affected by NAR's rebenchmarking.
In December, existing-home sales rose 3.6 percent year over year and 5 percent month to month, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.61 million. The national median home price fell 2.5 percent last month, to $164,500.
On a monthly basis, unsold inventory fell 9.2 percent in December to 2.38 million, which represents a 6.2-month supply at the current sales pace -- the lowest inventory level since March 2005, the report said.
"The inventory supply suggests many markets will see prices stabilize or grow moderately in the near future," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, in a statement.
Distressed homes, sold at an average 22 percent discount, accounted for 32 percent of sales last month (19 percent were foreclosures, 13 percent were short sales), down from 36 percent in December 2010, the report said.
All-cash buyers, most of whom are investors, accounted for 31 percent of purchases last month, up from 29 percent a year ago, according to a separate NAR survey. Investors accounted for 21 percent of sales in December, up from 20 percent a year ago. The share of first-time buyers in the market fell to 31 percent of sales from 33 percent in December 2010.
Regionally, the Midwest saw sales rise the most on a yearly basis last month: up 9.5 percent, to 1.04 million. Sales rose 8.3 percent in December compared to the previous month. The region saw the largest median price slip compared to a year ago: down 7.9 percent to $129,100.
The Northeast saw the biggest monthly sales increase, up 10.7 percent to an annual rate of 620,000. The region's year-over-year increase was smaller, 3.3 percent. The Northeast's median sales price fell 2.7 percent on an annual basis, to $231,300.
In the South, sales rose 3.5 percent year over year and 2.9 percent month to month in December, to 1.76 million. The region's median sales price dipped 1.1 percent to $146,900.
The West was the only region to see existing-home sales fall on a yearly basis. Sales decreased by 0.8 percent last month to 1.19 million. On a monthly basis, however, sales rose 2.6 percent. The West also saw the only annual increase in median sales price, a slight 0.3 percent uptick to $205,200.