Existing home sales increased 1.0% in December, but were down 0.6% from December 2012. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported December 2013 total existing home sales at a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.87 million units combined for single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, up from a downwardly adjusted 4.82 million units in November.
Existing home sales in the West and South increased 4.8% and 3.0% respectively in December, while in the Northeast and Midwest existing home sales decreased 1.5% and 4.3% respectively. Compared to last December, the South and Northeast increased 4.6% and 3.2% respectively. Existing home sales decreased in the Midwest and West by 0.9% and 10.7% respectively from the same month a year ago.
The December 2013 level of single-family existing sales increased 1.9% to a seasonally adjusted 4.30 million sales, but were down 0.7% from the same month a year ago. Seasonally adjusted condominium and co-op sales decreased 5.0% in December to a seasonally adjusted 570,000 units, and were unchanged from the same period a year ago.
The total housing inventory decreased 9.3% in December to 1.86 million existing homes. At the current sales rate, the December 2013 inventory represents a 4.6-month supply compared to a 5.1-month supply in November, and a 4.5 -month supply of homes a year ago. NAR also reported that the December median time on market for all homes was 72 days, up from 56 days in November but down from 73 days during the same month a year ago. NAR reported that 28% of all homes sold in December were on the market less than a month, compared to 35% in November.
The share of distressed sales in December held steady for the fourth straight month at 14%, compared to 24% for the same period a year ago. Distressed sales are defined as foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts.
After decreasing for four months, the median sales price for existing homes of all types was $198,000 in December, up from a revised $195,500 in November and up 9.9% from December 2012. Compared to a year ago, median sales prices increased in all four regions, ranging from 16.0% in the West to 3.6% in the Northeast. The median condominium/co-op price was $198,600 in December, up 10.9% from December 2012.
In December 2013, all cash sales were 32% of transactions, the same as in November, but were up from 29% in December 2012. Investors accounted for 21% of December 2013 home sales, up from 19% in November and the same level as a year ago. The all cash sale share and investor share appear to represent a steady portion of the existing home sales market. First-time buyers accounted for 27% of December 2013 sales, down from 28% in November and 30% in December 2012, and remain well below the historical average of about 40%.
The November Pending Home Sales Index ticked up 0.2% in November, so it was anticipated that existing home sales would increase moderately. As mortgage rates remain steady, a long-term trend of increasing existing home sales will continue.