Thursday, January 25, 2007

Realty Report Card for 2006

Existing-home sales eased but prices stabilized as inventories tightened in December, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, says home sales remain historically high. “Despite all of the doom-and-gloom stories and dire predictions over the last year, 2006 was the third strongest year on record for existing-home sales,” he says. “It looks like we’re moving beyond the low for the housing cycle last fall, and buyers are responding to historically low interest rates and competitive pricing by home sellers. In addition, a tightening inventory of homes on the market is supporting prices.”

Total existing-home sales — including single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops — eased 0.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.22 million units in December compared with 6.27 million in November. Sales were 7.9 percent lower than a 6.75 million-unit pace in December 2005.

There were 6,480,000 existing-home sales in 2006, down 8.4 percent from a record of about 7,075,000 in 2005. The second highest total was 6,779,000 in 2004.

A Closer Look at the Numbers:
Total housing inventory levels fell 7.9 percent at the end of December to 3.51 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.8-month supply at the current sales pace — down from a 7.3-month supply in November.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $222,000 in December, which is unchanged from December 2005. The median is a typical market price where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less. The 2006 median price was also $222,000, up 1.1 percent from a median of $219,600 in 2005.

Meanwhile, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 6.14 percent in December, down from 6.24 percent in November, according to Freddie Mac. The December rate was the lowest since October 2005 when it averaged 6.07 percent.

The median existing single-family home price was $221,600 in December, which was unchanged from a year ago. The median single-family price for 2006 was $222,000, up 1.4 percent from 2005.

Existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 2.8 percent to a level of 1.04 million in December, and were 5.5 percent below December 2005. The median existing-home price in the Northeast was $283,000, up 3.7 percent from a year earlier.

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