Existing-home sales eased in December but are well above a year ago, according to new data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which notes that total sales in 2012 were the highest in five years, while the annual price rose the most since 2005.
The preliminary annual total for existing-home sales in 2012 was 4.65 million, up 9.2% from 4.26 million in 2011. NAR says this was the highest volume since 2007, when it reached 5.03 million, and the strongest increase since 2004.
Total existing-home sales declined 1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million in December from a downwardly revised 4.99 million in November, but are 12.8% above the 4.38 million-unit level in December 2011.
Total housing inventory at the end of December fell 8.5% to 1.82 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.4-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.8 months in November, and is the lowest housing supply since May 2005, when it was 4.3 months, which was near the peak of the housing boom.
Listed inventory is 21.6% below a year ago, when there was a 6.4-month supply. Raw unsold inventory is at the lowest level since January 2001, when there were 1.78 million homes on the market.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $180,800 in December, which is 11.5% above December 2011. This is the 10th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains, which last occurred from August 2005 to May 2006, and is the strongest increase since November 2005, when it jumped 12.9%. For all of 2012, the preliminary median existing-home price was $176,600, up 6.3% from $166,100 in 2011, and was the strongest annual price gain since 2005, when the median price rose 12.4%.
Distressed homes accounted for 24% of December sales – 12% were foreclosures, and 12% were short sales – which is up from 22% in November but below the 32% share in December 2011.Â Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 17% below market value in December, while short sales were discounted 16%.