Home sales picked up at the end of 2014, closing off a year that had a sluggish start but then showed encouraging signs in the second half, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest housing report, released Friday.
Existing-home sales rose 2.4 percent in December month-over-month, bouncing back after a dismal November. Total home sales –reflecting completed transactions of single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops – reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in December.
“Home sales improved over the summer once inventory increased, prices moderated, and economic growth accelerated,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Sales were measurably better in the second half – up 8 percent compared to the first six months of the year.”
Overall for 2014, the median national existing-home price was $208,500, reaching the highest level since 2007, and a 5.8 percent increase from 2013 when it was $197,100. However, total existing-home sales were 3.1 percent lower in 2014 compared to 2013, NAR reports.
Here’s a closer look at five housing stats from NAR’s latest report — reflecting December 2014 data — to gauge the market:
1. Home sales: Single-family home sales rose 3.5 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million compared to 4.32 million in November. Single-family home sales are 4 percent above the pace a year ago. Existing condo and co-op sales, on the other hand, dropped 5 percent in December.
2. Home prices: The median existing-home price for all housing types in December was $209,500 – 6 percent higher than year ago levels. This marks the 34th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.
3. Days on the market: Properties typically stayed on the market in December for 66 days, a slightly shorter time frame than a year ago when the average was 72 days. Short sales were on the market the longest amount of time at a median of 98 days in December, while foreclosures sold in 61 days. Non-distressed homes averaged 66 days on the market. About 31 percent of homes that were sold in December were on the market for less than a month, according to NAR.
4. Distressed sales: Foreclosures and short sales edged up slightly in December, reaching 11 percent of sales compared to 9 percent in November. However, distressed sales are down from 14 percent a year ago. Of December existing-home sales, 8 percent were foreclosures and 3 percent were short sales. On average, foreclosures sold for a discount of 15 percent below market value while short sales were discounted 12 percent.
5. Inventory: Total housing inventory at the end of December fell 11.1 percent to 1.85 million existing homes available for sale. That represents a 4.4-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 5.1 months in November. Unsold inventory is now 0.5 percent lower than a year ago.
“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.”
The following is a look at how existing-home sales performed across the country in December:
- Northeast: existing-home sales fell 2.9 percent to an annual rate of 660,000. Sales are 3.1 percent above year ago levels. Median price: $246,600, up 3.2 percent above a year ago.
- Midwest: existing-home sales dropped 3.5 percent to an annual level of 1.09 million in December. Sales are 2.7 percent below December 2013. Median price: $159,100, up 5.3 percent from a year ago.
- South: existing-home sales in the South climbed 3.8 percent to an annual rate of 2.17 million in December. Sales are 7.4 percent above December 2013. Median price: $184,100, up 6.6 percent from a year ago.
- West: existing-home sales surged 9.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.12 million in December. Sales are 2.8 percent above a year ago. Median price: $299,600, up 5.6 percent year-over-year.