Despite a December dip in home sales, the 2009 housing market clearly improved versus 2008 in terms of both sales and home prices
After rising from September through November, December sales of existing homes fell by 16.7% versus the previous month, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported. December sales, however, remained 15% above the level of December 2008.
A sales decline had been anticipated in December, as buyers hurried to close on homes before the original November deadline for the federal tax credit. That tax credit has since been expanded and extended through April.
For the year, existing home sales rose 4.9% versus 2008, recording the first annual gain since 2005.
Existing home prices also improved in December, said NAR. The median price of an existing single-family home in December was $177,500, up 1.4% from a year previously. For all of 2009, however, the median price was down 11.9% versus 2008.
Meanwhile, new home sales also declined in December, down 7.6% from the revised November figure and 8.6% below December 2008, according to the U. S. Census Bureau.
The median new home sale price was $221,300 last month. The average was $290,600.
There were an estimated 231,000 new homes for sale at the end of December, said the Census Bureau, representing an 8.1-month supply. Total housing inventory at the end of December, as reported by NAR, fell 6.6%, to 3.29 million homes, representing a 7.2-month supply at the current sales pace. This was slightly higher than the November inventory.
The annual rates of decline in both the 10-City and 20-City Composite Indices continued to improve. The November figures marked approximately 10 months of improved readings in the annual statistics, beginning in early 2009, S&P reported, and the third consecutive month of single-digit declines after 20 consecutive months of double-digit losses.
David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor's, characterized the data as sending mixed signals.
"On balance, while these data do show that home prices are far more stable than they were a year ago, there is no clear sign of a sustained, broad based recovery," he said.