Home sales in December reached the highest pace in nearly a year. The gain coincided with other signs that the troubled U.S. housing market improved at the end of 2011. Sales of previously occupied homes rose 5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.61 million in December, the National Association of Realtors said. It’s the best level since January 2011.
Sales rose on a seasonal basis more than 10% in the Northeast, 8.3% in the Midwest, 2.9% in the South and 2.6% in the West.
The third straight monthly sales increase was encouraging. And economists noted that conditions are in place for further gains this year: Prices have declined. Mortgage rates have never been lower. Homebuilders are slightly more hopeful because more people are saying they might be open to buying this year. And home construction picked up in the final quarter last year.
“There’s no denying that home sales are still very low,” said Paul Dales, an economist with Capital Economics. “But after having risen in each of the last three months … it is clear that a housing recovery is now well under way.”
“With layoffs slowing sharply, hiring rising and consumers’ confidence rebounding, the pre-conditions for a sustained recovery are falling into place,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics.
– “Home Sales Pace Increases in December,” by Derek Kravitz, USA Today, Jan. 20, 2012.