Existing-home sales dropped 1 percent month to month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million from a downwardly revised annual rate of 4.99 million in November.
Sales for the month were 12.8 percent above the 4.38 million annual rate from December 2011, the National Association of Realtors said.
Preliminary figures for 2012 overall show existing-home sales for the year reached 4.65 million, 9.2 percent higher than 2011 and the largest total since 2007, when existing-home sales reached 5.03 million.
The median sales price for existing homes rose on an annual basis for the 10th consecutive month -- the longest streak since August 2005 to May 2006, the association said.
The median price of $180,800 is 11.5 percent higher than in December 2011, the trade group said.
The total inventory of existing homes on the market fell 8.5 percent from November to 1.82 million, a 4.4-month supply at the current rate of sales.
The supply of homes for sale is the lowest it has been since May 2005, when homes on the market were calculated to be a 4.3-month supply, "which was near the peak of the housing boom," NAR said.