Existing home sales were up in Q409 and in many areas, that helped give prices a boost, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, jumped 13.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.03m in the Q409 from 5.29m in the Q309, and are 27.2% above the 4.74m-unit level in the Q408, NAR reported, adding distressed properties accounted for 32% of Q409 transactions, down from 37% a year ago. The improvement comes after sales plummeted in December to close out the year. “The surge in home sales was driven by buyers responding strongly to the tax credit combined with record low mortgage interest rates,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “With inventory levels trending down over the past 18 months, we expect broadly balanced housing market conditions in much of the country by late spring with more areas showing higher prices.” In Q409, NAR said 67 out of 151 metropolitan statistical areas surveyed reported higher median existing single-family home prices compared to Q408, including 16 with double-digit increases. The remaining markets had one where prices were unchanged and 84 metros had price declines. In Q309, 30 MSAs showed annual price increases and 123 areas were down. The national median existing single-family price was $172,900, which is 4.1% below Q408. Yun called it "the smallest price decline in over two years,” adding “the most recent monthly data showing a broad stabilization in home prices.” The median price for existing condos was $177,399 in Q409, down 4.8% from Q408. Median prices were up in 11 of 54 metro areas, while the remaining 43 had declines. In Q309, only four metro areas had annual price increases. Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 11.1% in Q409 to a pace of 1.03m and are 33.6% higher than a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Northeast declined 5.6% to $234,900 in Q$09 from Q408. In the Midwest, existing-home sales increased 14.5% in Q409 to a pace of 1.38m and are 29.9% above a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Midwest rose 1.1% to $141,100 in Q409 from Q408. In the South, existing-home sales rose 13.8% in Q409 to an annual rate of 2.23m and are 28.2% higher than Q408. The median existing single-family home price in the South was $153,000 in Q409, down 2.4% from a year earlier. Existing-home sales in the West increased 16.2% in Q409 to an annual rate of 1.38m and are 18.2% above a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the West was $227,200 in Q409, which is 8.9% below the Q408. Write to Austin Kilgore.