The median existing single-family home price rose in 133 out of 152 metropolitan statistical areas based on closings in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared with same quarter in 2011, while 19 areas had price declines, according to new data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In the third quarter of 2012, 120 areas showed increases from a year earlier, while in the fourth quarter of 2011 only 29 metros were up.
At the end of the fourth quarter, there were 1.82 million existing homes available for sale, which is 21.6% below the close of the fourth quarter of 2011, when 2.32 million homes were on the market. Unsold inventory is at the lowest level since January 2001, when there were 1.78 million homes for sale.
NAR reports that the national median existing single-family home price was $178,900 in the fourth quarter, up 10% from $162,600 in the fourth quarter of 2011, which is the strongest year-over-year price increase since the fourth quarter of 2005 when the median price jumped 13.6%. In the third quarter, the price rose 8.8% from a year earlier.
Total existing-home sales, including single-family homes and condos, rose 5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.9 million in the fourth quarter from 4.66 million in the third quarter, and were 12.1% above the 4.37 million pace set during the fourth quarter of 2011. Distressed homes accounted for 23% of fourth quarter sales, down from 30% a year ago. Sales in the last quarter were at the highest level since the fourth quarter of 2009 when they reached 4.95 million.
‘Home sales are being fueled by a pent-up demand and job creation, along with still favorable affordability conditions and rents rising at faster rates,’ says Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. ‘Our population has been growing faster than overall housing stock, so supply and demand dynamics are very much at play.’