U.S. existing home sales down 1 pct in DecemberSouce:Xinhua Publish By Thomas Whittle Updated 23/01/2013 9:10 am in World / no comments
WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 — U.S. existing-home sales declined 1 percent in December with home prices continuing to trend up, a mixed sign for the housing sector, said a leading industry group on Tuesday.
Existing home sales, which tally completed transactions for single-family houses, townhouses and condominiums, fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million in December from a downwardly revised 4.99 million in November. The level was 12.8 percent higher than the 4.38 million units registered in December 2011, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said in a report.
The annual total for existing-home sales in 2012 was 4.65 million, up 9.2 percent from 4.26 million in 2011, marking the highest level since 2007.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said pent-up demand is sustaining the market. “Record low mortgage interest rates clearly are helping many home buyers, but tight inventory and restrictive mortgage underwriting standards are limiting sales.”
Due to declining inventory level, the median existing home price for all housing types climbed 11.5 percent from a year ago to 180,800 U.S. dollars in December, marking the 10th consecutive month of year-over-year increase, noted the report.
Distressed homes — foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts — accounted for 24 percent of December sales, up from 22 percent in November.
For all of 2012, the preliminary median existing-home price was 176,600 dollars, up 6.3 percent from 166,100 in 2011, and was the strongest annual price gain since 2005, according to the report.
Existing home sales account for a larger share of the market than new home sales. Yun predicted improving job market and increasing number of households will continue to fuel housing market growth in 2013.