After five consecutive months of declines, monthly home sales rose 13.2% in December from the prior month, according to the RE/MAX National Housing Report released Wednesday. Compared to the year earlier, December  home sales fell 5%. Although, RE/MAX said that is the lowest year-over-year drop in five months. Crisis hotspots such as Arizona and Florida produced yearly gains in home sales. In Phoenix, home sales jumped 12.8% in December from the year ago. In Tampa, Fla., sales rose 7.4% and in Miami, home sales climbed 9.9%. RE/MAX Chief Executive Margaret Kelly said December’s trends put the housing market in strong position for growth as the home shopping season nears. “It’s nice to see that sales were much higher than in November, with a year-over-year difference better than we’ve seen in months, and it’s encouraging that prices appear to be remaining stable,” Kelly said. “These positive trends should build as we enter the traditionally strong home-buying months in the spring and summer.” Home prices indeed remained stable in the last month of 2010, dropping only 2.2% from 2009 and 0.9% from November. The median sales price was $192,941 in December. Twenty eight of the 54 major metropolitan areas tracked by RE/MAX experienced year-over-year home prices appreciation, including Cleveland (up 12%), Indianapolis (up 9.6%), Pittsburgh (up 8.6%), Dallas-Fort Worth (up 8.4%) and New Orleans (up 6.8%). Home prices decreased in 23 metro areas and remained flat in three. Homes sold in December were on the market for an average of 96 days, which is higher than the average of 93 days for sales closed in November and 92 days in December 2009, according to RE/MAX data. RE/MAX reported a month-over-month dip in housing inventory, down 8.8%. The amount of inventory is down 2.9% from December 2009. However, the months it would take to move that inventory off the market increased to 10.2 months. According to RE/MAX, a balanced market of buyers and sellers is at a six-month supply of housing inventory. Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.

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