The National Association of Realtors reported Thursday morning that existing home sales rose 2% in December after a 6% decline in the prior month.
“We lost some momentum toward the end of 2013 from disappointing job growth and limited inventory, but we ended with a year that was close to normal given the size of our population,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.
Existing single-family home sales rose to a 4.87 million seasonally adjusted annual rate in December from a downwardly revised 4.82 million rate in November.
“Despite the frigid temperatures that hit most of the country, it bodes well for 2014 that sales warmed up for the first time in three months, well ahead of spring selling season,” said Quicken Loans vice president Bill Banfield.
Overall, existing home sales are up 9.2% from 2012, which marks the strongest performance since 2006.
“Existing-home sales have risen nearly 20% since 2011, with job growth, record low mortgage interest rates and a large pent-up demand driving the market,” Yun said.
Realtors are looking for 2014 to be another strong year, according to NAR president Steve Brown.
“The only factors holding us back from a stronger recovery are the ongoing issues of restrictive mortgage credit and constrained inventory,” he said. “With strict new mortgage rules in place, we will be monitoring the lending environment to ensure that financially qualified buyers can access the credit they need to purchase a home.”
All-cash sales comprised 32% of sales in December, up from 29% a year ago. “Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 21% of homes in December,” NAR said, unchanged from 2012.
Mortgage lenders are hoping the percentage of cash sales will decline this year and more buyers will need financing.