More existing homes changed hands in December, allowing 2010 to end with a run of five of the preceding six months having higher sales of existing structures, according to the National Association of Realtors.
"December was a good finish to 2010, when sales fluctuate more than normal. The pattern over the past six months is clearly showing a recovery," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "The December pace is near the volume we're expecting for 2011, so the market is getting much closer to an adequate, sustainable level. The recovery will likely continue as job growth gains momentum and rising rents encourage more renters into ownership while exceptional affordability conditions remain."
The association reported that the national median existing-home price for all housing types was $168,800 in December, which is 1% below December 2009. Distressed homes rose to a 36% market share in December from 33% in November, and 32% in December 2009.
"The modest rise in distressed sales, which typically are discounted 10 to 15 percent relative to traditional homes, dampened the median price in December, but the flat price trend continues," Yun explained.
NAR reported that the nation's total housing inventory at the end of December fell 4.2% to 3.56 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.1-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 9.5-month supply in November, NAR said.
Investors accounted for 20% of transactions in December, up from 19% in November and 15% in December 2009; the balance of sales were to repeat buyers.