December home sales unexpectedly rose 5.7 percent over November, ending the year with the 6th consecutive month to show a year-over-year sales increase. Sales were 1.1 percent higher than a year ago, RE/MAX reported.
Inventories for the 18th straight month, largely due to a lower volume of foreclosures, and are now 25.7 percent lower than they were at his time last year. Prices remained nearly even with November prices, down just 0.35 percent month over month and down 3.5 percent from December 2010.
"We're pleasantly surprised to see the year end with such strong sales, and hope this trend will continue into the traditional spring selling season," said Margaret Kelly, CEO of RE/MAX, LLC. "This December jump may be due to increased investor involvement and transactions that were scheduled to occur before the end of the year, but with prices at or very near the bottom and historically low interest rates, consumers are finding real value in this market."
In December, the median sales price was $179,587, which was nearly even with November. On a month-to-month basis in 2011, prices rose in five months and declined in seven, not demonstrating a clear trend in either direction. December home prices were fractionally lower than what was seen in November, and 3.5 percent lower than December 2010. Year-to-year home prices have declined for 15 months straight. In the December survey of 53 metro areas, 20 showed price increases from November, while 11 experienced price increases over December last year, including: Miami, FL +16.7 percent, Orlando, FL +14.0 percent, Little Rock, AR +6.9 percent and Phoenix, AZ +6.4 percent.
While sales in November followed the usual seasonal trend, falling slightly, December sales surprised most analysts and rose higher. On a month-to-month basis, December sales rose 5.7 percent. For the sixth consecutive month home sales were at a higher level than the same month in the previous year. Of the 53 metro areas included in the survey, 20 experienced higher sales than in December 2010, including: Providence, RI +32.3 percent, Wilmington, DE +24.1 percent, Nashville, TN +20.5 percent, Miami, FL +19.1 percent, Albuquerque, NM +17.0 peremt and Chicago, IL +16.7 percent.
For homes sold in December, the average days on market was 98, just 1 day higher than the average reported in November, and 2 days higher than the average seen in December 2010. Only two months in 2011 saw a days on market average below 90. July and September both reported 88, which represents the lowest average seen in the last 12 months. Days on market is the number of days between first being listed in an MLS and when a sales contract is signed.
The average inventory of homes for sale in the 53 metro areas surveyed in December dropped 11.0 percent from November and 25.7 percent from December last year. Inventory has fallen for 18 consecutive months. Given the current rate of sales, and the active inventory, the resulting months supply is the same as seen in November, 7.8 months, but significantly lower than the 10.2 month supply reported in December 2010. Months supply is the number of months it would take to clear a market's active inventory at the current rate of sales. A six-month supply is considered balanced.