Existing Home Sales in 2013 Hit Seven-Year High

Existing home sales hit a seven-year high in 2013, with median prices also maintaining strong growth, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The full-year 2013 tallied 5.09 million sales—9.1% higher than the previous year, making it the strongest performance since 2006 when sales reached an “unsustainably” high 6.48 million at the close of the housing boom.

In December 2013, total existing home sales increased 1% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.87 million, compared to 4.82 million in November, says NAR. However, the month’s sales were 0.6% beneath December 2012’s level.

“Existing-home sales have risen nearly 20 percent since 2011, with job growth, record low mortgage interest rates and a large pent-up demand driving the market,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “We lost some momentum toward the end of 2013 from disappointing job growth and limited inventory, but we ended with a year that was close to normal given the size of our population.”

The national median existing home price rose 11.5% in 2013 to $197,100 compared to the year before, when the median was $176,800—the strongest gain since 2005, when it rose 12.4%.

In December, the median time on the market was 72 days, across all housing types. This represents a sharp increase from November’s 56 median days spent on the market, but is about the same as December 2012’s 73 days.

With jobs expected to improve in 2014, home sales should remain steady despite rising home prices and higher mortgage interest rates, according to NAR President Steve Brown.

“The only factors holding us back from a stronger recovery are the ongoing issues of restrictive mortgage credit and constrained inventory,” he said. “With strict new mortgage rules in place, we will be monitoring the lending environment to ensure that financially qualified buyers can access the credit they need to purchase a home.”

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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