After the federal home buyer tax credit's impending expiration caused existing-home sales to surge last year from September to November, sales fell 16.7% in December 2009 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.45 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
In November, existing-home sales totaled 6.54 million. December 2009's totals remained 15% higher than the 4.74 million-unit level in December 2008.
‘It's significant that home sales remain above year-ago levels, but the market is going through a period of swings driven by the tax credit," says NAR's chief economist, Lawrence Yun. "We'll likely have another surge in the spring as home buyers take advantage of the extended and expanded tax credit."
An NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 43% of homes in December – down from 51% in November. Repeat buyers rose to 42% of transactions in December from 37% in November; the remaining sales were to investors.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $178,300 in December, which is 1.5 percent higher than December 2008. "The median price rose because of an increased number of mid- to upper-priced homes in the sales mix," Yun said. It was the first year-over-year gain in median price since August 2007.
Total housing inventory at the end of December fell 6.6% to 3.29 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.2-month supply at the current sales pace – up from a 6.5-month supply in November, NAR says. Raw unsold inventory is 11.1% below a year ago. Distressed homes accounted for 32% of sales last month.
SOURCE: National Association of Realtors