Sales of existing single-family homes and condominiums in the fourth quarter of 2010 rose from the third quarter in all but one state, though only one state saw an annual rise compared to fourth-quarter 2009, according to a National Association of Realtors report released today.

Existing-home sales in the U.S. rose 15.4 percent in the fourth quarter from the third quarter, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.8 million. That’s a 19.5 percent drop from fourth-quarter 2009, when the rate was 5.97 million — a homebuyer tax credit-fueled rate NAR called "unsustainable." In 2010 overall, sales fell 4.8 percent, to an estimated 4.91 million, from 5.16 million in 2009.

The national median existing single-family home price in the fourth quarter of 2010 was essentially flat compared to the fourth quarter of 2009: $170,600.

Median prices in the fourth quarter of 2010 rose in 78 of 152 metropolitan areas across the country compared to the fourth quarter of 2009.

10 metro areas to see highest quarter-over-quarter median price jumps:

Metropolitan Area Q4 2009 median price Q4 2010 median price % change
Elmira, N.Y.  $86,800 $101,100 16.5%
Pittsfield, Mass.  $173,100 $200,500 15.8%
Binghamton, N.Y.  $117,900 $136,300 15.6%
Burlington-South Burlington, Vt. $236,600 $270,600 14.4%
Bloomington-Normal, Ill. $146,700 $167,700 14.3%
Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y.  $110,700 $126,500 14.3%
Erie, Pa. $97,700 $110,300 12.9%
Peoria, Ill. $111,900 $126,100 12.7%
Indianapolis, Ind. $111,500 $124,300 11.5%
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wis.  $188,400 $210,100 11.5%

Source: NAR 

Median price rose the most quarter-over-quarter in the Northeast, up 2.3 percent to $240,400. Prices in the Midwest and South remained essentially flat at $139,200 and $152,400, respectively. The West was the only region to see a median price drop, -2.9 percent to $214,400.

When comparing 2009’s median price to 2010’s median price, metro areas in California stand out for their rate of appreciation:

Metro Area 2009 median price 2010 median price % change
Akron, Ohio  $93,200 $108,900 16.8%
Elmira, N.Y.  $87,300 $101,000 15.7%
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif. $493,310 $567,900 15.1%
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. $530,000 $602,000 13.6%
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. $169,680 $187,000 10.2%
Erie, Pa.  $97,900 $107,700 10.0%
Burlington-South Burlington, Vt. $241,800 $261,200 8.0%
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.  $379,200 $408,600 7.8%
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.-N.H. $332,600 $357,300 7.4%
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif.  $359,500 $385,700 7.3%

Source: NAR

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement that he was encouraged by the quarterly rise in sales. 

"Home sales … are helping to absorb the inventory, including many distressed properties. Even with foreclosures continuing to enter the inventory pipeline, they’ve been selling well and housing supplies have trended down," Yun stated. "A recovery to normalcy requires steady trimming of the inventories."

Yun projected about 150,000 to 200,000 jobs will be added to the economy this year from an expected 300,000 additional home sales in 2011, the report said.

"An improving housing market and job growth will go hand in hand. The housing recovery will mean faster job growth," Yun added.

Virginia was the only state to see a quarterly drop in sales, down 5.4 percent, and sales in Washington, D.C., remained unchanged from the third quarter.

Compared to fourth-quarter 2009, however, only Idaho saw a yearly rise in sales: up 7.3 percent. Some foreclosure-ridden states — Florida, Arizona, Nevada and California — saw the smallest drops in sales during that time. Distressed sales made up 34 percent of all sales in the fourth quarter, up only slightly from 32 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.

10 states to see largest gains or smallest drops in sales from fourth quarter 2009 to fourth quarter 2010 (sales rates are seasonally adjusted, in thousands):

State Q4 2009 sales rate Q4 2010 sales rate % change
Idaho 49.2 52.8 7.3%
Florida 435.2 416.8 -4.2%
Arizona 158.4 150.4 -5.1%
Wyoming 9.6 8.8 -8.3%
Nevada 120 108 -10%
Mississippi 47.6 42.8 -10.1%
California 526.4 464.8 -11.7%
Hawaii 25.2 22 -12.7%
Colorado 108.4 90.8 -16.2%
Vermont 14.8 12.4 -16.2%

Source: NAR

Idaho also saw the biggest jump in sales from the third quarter of 2010 to the fourth quarter of 2010:

State Q3 2010 sales rate Q4 2010 sales rate % change
Idaho 26 52.8 103.1%
Vermont 8 12.4 55%
Minnesota 60.8 81.2 33.6%
Iowa 41.2 52.8 28.2%
North Dakota 9.2 11.6 26.1%
Oregon 44.4 56 26.1%
Utah 22 27.6 25.5%
Nevada 87.2 108 23.9%
Alaska 16.8 20.8 23.8%
Missouri 74.4 92 23.7%

Source: NAR

Idaho was at the top of a list of only seven states, and Washington, D.C., to see sales rise from 2009 to 2010:

State 2009 sales rate 2010 sales rate % change
Idaho 33.8 38.9 15.1%
Hawaii 18.4 21 14.1%
Florida 357.8 396.5 10.8%
Washington, D.C. 8.4 8.8 4.8%
Maryland 72.5 74.4 2.6%
Washington 82.3 83.7 1.7%
Mississippi 41.9 42.1 0.5%
Oregon 55 55.1 0.2%
Alaska 22.4 22.4 0%
Vermont 11.3 11.3 0%

Source: NAR

Several Midwestern states saw the biggest drops in sales from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2010. 

10 states to see biggest drops in quarter-over-quarter sales:

State Q4 2009 sales rate Q4 2010 sales rate % change
South Dakota 20.8 12.8 -38.5%
Minnesota 126 81.2 -35.6%
Pennsylvania 226.4 150.8 -33.4%
Kentucky 87.6 60 -31.5%
Nebraska 41.6 28.8 -30.8%
Indiana 124 88.4 -28.7%
Delaware 14 10 -28.6%
Oklahoma 89.6 64.4 -28.1%
North Dakota 16 11.6 -27.5%
Rhode Island 17.6 12.8 -27.3%

Source: NAR 

The Midwest experienced the biggest estimated overall drop in sales in 2010 compared to 2009: 7.5 percent, to a rate of 1.08 million. The Northeast saw a drop of 4.8 percent, to 817,000. The West saw a decline of 4.7 percent, to 1.15 million. The South saw the smallest decrease, down 2.8 percent, to 1.86 million.

10 states to see biggest decreases in sales from 2009 to 2010: 

State 2009 sales rate 2010 sales rate % change
South Dakota 17.4 14.2 -18.4%
Minnesota 107.4 89.7 -16.5%
Delaware 12.6 10.9 -13.5%
Oklahoma 83.5 72.3 -13.4%
Rhode Island 15.4 13.6 -11.7%
Missouri 105.9 94.6 -10.7%
Michigan 167.1 149.6 -10.5%
Pennsylvania 176.5 160.3 -9.2%
Utah 31.1 28.5 -8.4%
Kansas 56.5 51.8 -8.3%

Source: NAR

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