Existing-home sales, prices and inventory saw dramatic changes in 2012 reminiscent of the housing boom, statistics released today by the National Association of Realtors show.

At 4.65 million units, 2012 existing-home sales were up 9.2 percent from 2011, according to NAR’s preliminary totals for the year. That would be the highest volume since 2007, when 5.03 million were sold. 

Bolstered by low inventories, the national median existing-home price was up 11.5 percent from a year ago in December, to $180,800. December saw the 10th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains, a trend not seen since May 2006.

For 2012 as a whole, the national median existing-home price was up 6.3 percent, to $176,600, the largest annual price gain since prices surged by 12.4 percent in 2005.

At 1.82 million units at the end of December, existing-home inventory now represents a 4.4-month supply, the lowest level since May 2005, near the peak of the housing boom.

"Likely job creation and household formation will likely fuel (market) growth," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a statement. "Both sales and prices will again be higher in 2013."

Source: Calculated Risk blog

A survey by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released today showed builder confidence holding steady in January at the highest level since April 2006.

"Conditions in the housing market look much better now than at the beginning of 2012, and an increasing number of housing markets are showing signs of recovery, which should bode well for future home sales later this year," said NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg in a statement.

Existing-home sales, which make up about 90 percent of total home sales, slipped 1 percent from November to December, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million units.

Existing homes were on the market for a median of 73 days in December — up from 70 days in November, but down from 99 days in December 2011. About a third of existing homes for sale in December were on the market for less than a month, NAR noted.

First-time buyers accounted for 30 percent of purchasers in December, unchanged from November.

Distressed homes, with an even split between foreclosures and short sales, accounted for 24 percent of all existing-home sales in December — up from 22 percent in November, but down from December 2011’s 32 percent. Foreclosures and short sales sold for 17 percent and 16 percent, respectively, below market value.

All-cash deals accounted for 29 percent of December’s sales, just 2 percentage points below last December’s portion. Investors accounted for 21 percent of existing-home sales in October.

Existing-home sales, December 2012

Seasonally adjusted annual rate 4.94 million
% change from December 2011 +12.8%
% change from November 2012 -1.0%
National median price $180,800
% change from December 2011 +11.5%
Unsold inventory (months’ supply) 4.4
Share of all-cash buyers 29%
Share of investor buyers 21%
Share of first-time buyers 30%
Share of distressed sales 24%

Source: National Association of Realtors

Regionally, the Midwest led the way with a 15.5 percent year-over-year increase to an annual pace of 1.12 million units and a median price of $144,800, up 12.3 percent from last December.

The South saw home sales increase 14.7 percent from a year ago in December to a yearly pace of 1.95 million units, with a median price up 4.6 percent, on an annual basis, to $161,100.

Existing-home sales in the Northeast were up 10.3 percent in December to an annual pace of 640,000 units from December 2011. The median sales price was up, too, to $231,600, 5.3 percent above last December’s median price.

In the West, sales were up 8.8 percent from a year ago to an annual rate of 1.23 million units in December, and the median price jumped 17.3 percent from last December to $239,900, the largest yearly proportional price jump of any region.

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