Total existing-home sales, including single-family and condo properties, increased 5.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.42 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, up from 4.17 million in the third quarter, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The fourth-quarter sales were also 9.2% above the 4.04 million pace during the fourth quarter of 2010. All regions rose from the third quarter and from a year ago.
At the end of the fourth quarter there were 2.38 million existing homes available for sale, which is 21.2% lower than the close of the fourth quarter of 2010, when there were 3.02 million homes on the market. The national median existing single-family home price was $163,500 in the fourth quarter, down 4.2% from $170,600 in the fourth quarter of 2010. Distressed homes accounted for 30% of fourth-quarter sales; they constituted 34% a year earlier.
The median existing single-family home price rose in 29 out of 149 metropolitan statistical areas in the fourth quarter from a year earlier; two were unchanged, and 118 areas had price declines.
‘Sales have risen strongly in lower price ranges from one year ago, while sales at the upper end remain sluggish,’ says Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. ‘More importantly, we're seeing a consistent trend of declining inventory, which means supply and demand conditions are becoming more balanced in more areas, which will help stabilize home prices.’