Existing-Home Sales Improved by Year's End

Yesterday, we discussed existing-home sales in the Chicago real estate market for 2011. Today, we examine the nation as a whole.
Existing-home sales in 2011 finished below what experts would consider to be a healthy market, but at least the year ended on an upswing.
The National Association of Realtors® said Friday that home sales in December rose 5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.61 million. That’s the the third straight monthly increase and the highest level since January of 2011. It’s also 3.6 percent above the December 2010 level.
Still, for all of 2011, existing home sales rose a mere 1.7 percent to 4.26 million from 4.19 million in 2010. Analysts see a healthy housing market at around 6 million sales a year.
So, what can we expect for 2012?
“The pattern of home sales in recent months demonstrates a market in recovery,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Record low mortgage interest rates, job growth and bargain home prices are giving more consumers the confidence they need to enter the market.”
The national median existing-home price was $164,500 in December, which is 2.5 percent below the median price during the same month the prior year.
Inventory is down too, dropping 9.2 percent to 2.38 million existing homes for sale at the end of December. That  represents a 6.2-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 7.2 in November.
“The inventory supply suggests many markets will see prices stabilize or grow moderately in the near future,” Yun said.
Other NAR statistics:
*Foreclosures (19 percent) and short sales (13 percent) accounted for 32 percent of U.S. sales in December, up from 29 percent in November and down from 36 percent in December 2010.
*Existing-home sales rose 8.3 percent in the Midwest and are 9.5 percent above Dec. 2010. In the Northeast, home sales increased 10.7 percent last month and are 3.3 percent above a year ago. In the South, sales rose 2.9 percent and are 3.5 percent above a year ago. And, in the West, sales increased 2.6 percent but are 0.8 percent below Dec. 2010.
*The national median existing-home price was $164,500 in December, which is 2.5 percent below the price in December 2010.
*The median home price in the Midwest was $129,100, down 7.9 percent from a year ago. In the Northeast, the median price was $231,300, 2.7 percent below Dec. 2010. In the South, the median price was $146,900, down 1.1 percent. And, in the West, the median price of $205,200 was up 0.3 percent from the year prior.
“The American dream of homeownership is alive and well,” said NAR President Moe Veissi. “We have a large pent-up demand, and household formation is likely to return to normal as the job market steadily improves.
“More buyers coming into the market mean additional benefits for the overall economy.”