Existing-home sales continued on an uptrend in December, rising for three consecutive months and remaining above a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
The latest monthly data shows total existing-home sales1 rose 5.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.61 million in December from a downwardly revised 4.39 million in November, and are 3.6 percent higher than the 4.45 million-unit level in December 2010. The estimates are based on completed transactions from multiple listing services that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said these are early signs of what may be a sustained recovery. “The pattern of home sales in recent months demonstrates a market in recovery,” he said. “Record low mortgage interest rates, job growth and bargain home prices are giving more consumers the confidence they need to enter the market.”
For all of 2011, existing-home sales rose 1.7 percent to 4.26 million from 4.19 million in 2010.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to another record low of 3.96 percent in December from 3.99 percent in November; the rate was 4.71 percent in December 2010; recordkeeping began in 1971.
NAR President Moe Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami, said more buyers are expected to take advantage of market conditions this year. “The American dream of homeownership is alive and well. We have a large pent-up demand, and household formation is likely to return to normal as the job market steadily improves,” he said. “More buyers coming into the market mean additional benefits for the overall economy. When people buy homes, they stimulate a lot of related goods and services.”
Total housing inventory at the end of December dropped 9.2 percent to 2.38 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.2-month supply2 at the current sales pace, down from a 7.2-month supply in November.
Available inventory has trended down since setting a record of 4.04 million in July 2007, and is at the lowest level since March 2005 when there were 2.30 million homes on the market.
“The inventory supply suggests many markets will see prices stabilize or grow moderately in the near future,” Yun said.
Foreclosures3 sold for an average discount of 22 percent in December, up from 20 percent a year ago, while short sales closed 13 percent below market value compared with a 16 percent discount in December 2010.