By Adam DeSanctis, Realtor.org
Despite low inventory conditions, existing-home sales bounced back in December and climbed above an annual pace of 5 million sales for the sixth time in seven months, according to the National Association of Realtors, median home prices for 2014 rose to their highest level since 2007, but total sales fell 3.1 percent from 2013.
Total existing home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in December from a downwardly-revised 4.92 million in November. From a year ago, December sales were higher by 3.5 percent and are now above year-over-year levels for the third straight month.
For all of 2014, there were 4.93 million sales, a 3.1 percent decline from 2013 (5.09 million). The national median existing-home price was $208,500, the highest since 2007 ($219,000) and a 5.8 percent increase from 2013 ($197,100).
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says sales picked up in December to close a 2014 that got off to a sluggish start but showed encouraging signs of activity the second half of the year. “Home sales improved over the summer once inventory increased, prices moderated and economic growth accelerated,” he said. “Sales were measurably better in the second half – up 8 percent compared to the first six months of the year.”
Total housing inventory2 at the end of December dropped 11.1 percent to 1.85 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.4-month supply at the current sales pace – down from 5.1 months in November. Unsold inventory is now 0.5 percent lower than a year ago (1.86 million).
“A drop in housing supply in December raises some affordability concerns in the months ahead as minimal selection and the potential for faster price appreciation could offset the demand from buyers encouraged by a stronger economy and sub-4 percent interest rates,” says Yun. “Housing costs – both rents and home prices – continue to outpace wages and are burdensome for potential buyers trying to save for a downpayment while looking for available homes in their price range.”