Existing Home Sales Rise 5% In December, But Cancellations At 33%

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The National Association of Realtors announced that existing home sales rose 5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.61 million. This was only slightly better than the 4.45 million in 2010. In other words, the housing market has not recovered at all.

Actual non-seasonally adjusted for all of 2011 existing-home sales rose 1.7 percent to 4.26 million from 4.19 million in 2010.

Cancellation rates stayed high.

Contract failures were reported by 33 percent of NAR members in December, unchanged from November; they were 9 percent in December 2010. Although closed sales are holding up better than this finding would suggest, contract cancellations are caused largely by declined mortgage applications and failures in loan underwriting from appraised values coming in below the negotiated price.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $164,500 in December, which is 2.5 percent below December 2010. Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales – accounted for 32 percent of sales in December (19 percent were foreclosures and 13 percent were short sales), up from 29 percent in November; they were 36 percent in December 2010.

Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 22 percent in December, up from 20 percent a year ago, while short sales closed 13 percent below market value compared with a 16 percent discount in December 2010.

On a positive note

Total housing inventory at the end of December dropped 9.2 percent to 2.38 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.2-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 7.2-month supply in November.