The year ended positively for housing, marked by both the strongest existing-home sales and lowest foreclosure filings since before the recession. Despite rising mortgage rates during the last half of the year, pent-up buyer demand is driving the continued recovery.
December's existing-home sales report, issued by the National Association of Realtors, showed a slight uptick in sales after three months of declines. Sales, including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 1 percent in December.
For 2013, existing-home sales were 5.09 million, up 9.1 percent from 2012. It was the strongest performance since 2006, when sales totaled 6.48 million.
The market got the trifecta
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, said in a release that job growth, pent-up demand and low mortgage rates have helped existing-home sales rise by close to 20 percent since 2011. "We lost some momentum toward the end of 2013 from disappointing job growth and limited inventory," he said. "But we ended with a year that was close to normal, given the size of our population."
Rising prices helped by fewer foreclosure filings
Foreclosure filings continued to decline as home prices recovered in 2013. According to RealtyTrac, there were 1.4 million total properties with foreclosure filings last year, the lowest since 2007, when there were 1.3 million.
Fewer foreclosed properties on the market helped the rise in home prices overall. The National Association of Realtors reports that the national median existing-home price in 2013 was $197,100, 11.5 percent higher than the median of $176,800 in 2012.
In December, sales of distressed homes, including both foreclosures and short sales, accounted for 14 percent of existing-home sales. In the same month a year earlier, they accounted for 24 percent of sales.
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