US existing-home sales in Dec fall by 1%; 2012 totals increase

22 January 2013 21:17  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Existing-home sales in the US declined by 1% in December from November but remain well above where they were a year ago, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said on Tuesday.

December's existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, declined 1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94m from a downwardly revised 4.99m in November. Still, that is 12.8% above the 4.38m units recorded in December 2011.

The preliminary total for existing-home sales in 2012 was 4.65m, up 9.2% from 4.26m in 2011, the NAR said. That’s the highest volume since 2007 when it reached 5.03m.

Other housing numbers show growing strength as well.

Total housing inventory at the end of December fell 8.5% to 1.82m existing homes available for sale, which is a 4.4-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.8 months in November, according to the NAR. The supply number is the lowest it’s been since May 2005, when it was 4.3 months near the peak of the housing boom.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $180,800 in December, an 11.5% gain from December 2011 and the 10th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains, the NAR said. That last occurred from August 2005 to May 2006 and is the strongest increase since November 2005 when it jumped 12.9%.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said pent-up demand is sustaining the market.

"Record low mortgage interest rates clearly are helping many home buyers, but tight inventory and restrictive mortgage underwriting standards are limiting sales," he said. "The number of potential buyers who stayed on the sidelines accumulated during the recession, but they started entering the market early last year as their financial ability and confidence steadily grew, along with home prices. Likely job creation and household formation will continue to fuel that growth. Both sales and prices will again be higher in 2013."

The US housing industry, especially new home construction, is a key downstream consuming sector for a wide variety of chemicals, resins and derivative products.

By: Jeremy Pafford
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