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Realtors point to market in recovery mode

Existing-home sales increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.61 million in December, up 5.0% from a downwardly revised November.

The results released Friday morning by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) marked the third consecutive month of existing-home sales gains. The latest figure from December is also 3.6% higher than the 4.45 million-unit level reported in December 2010.

“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.”

For the full year 2011, existing-home sales increased 1.7% to 4.26 million, the NAR reported.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 10.7% to an annual pace of 620,000 in December and are 3.3% above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $231,300, which is 2.7% below December 2010.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 8.3% in December to a level of 1.04 million and are 9.5% above December 2010. The median price in the Midwest was $129,100, down 7.9% from a year ago.

In the South, existing-home sales increased 2.9% to an annual level of 1.76 million in December and are 3.5% above a year ago. The median price in the South was $146,900, down 1.1% from December 2010.

Existing-home sales in the West rose 2.6% to an annual pace of 1.19 million in December but are 0.8% below December 2010. The median price in the West was $205,200, up 0.3% from a year ago.