Sales of previously-owned homes surged 14.7% in December in the largest monthly increase the National Association of Realtors has ever recorded, the trade group said Friday. Thanks to the robust finish, 2015 ended with 5.26 million existing-home sales, the highest figure since 2006, when annual sales were 6.48 million.
Completed transactions of existing-homes (single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops) rose to an annual, seasonally adjusted rate of 5.46 million in December, up from November’s pace of 4.76 million, NAR said. Compared to one year earlier, December’s sales pace was up by 7.7%. The trade group attributed December’s jump in part to new mortgage rules that delayed November closings until the end of the year.
“While the carryover of November’s delayed transactions into December contributed greatly to the sharp increase, the overall pace taken together indicates sales these last two months maintained the healthy level of activity seen in most of 2015,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Additionally, the prospect of higher mortgage rates in coming months and warm November and December weather allowed more homes to close before the end of the year.”
Prices continue to rise amid a sustained lack of inventory. At the end of December, the supply of available housing for sale fell 12.3% to 1.79 million existing-homes, a 3.9-month supply at the current sales pace. That’s down from 5.1 months in November and the lowest since January 2005 (3.6 months). Economists generally consider a six-month supply a healthy market.