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U.S. home sales jump in December

January 20, 2011 |  9:04 am

Homesales

Sales of previously owned U.S. homes jumped 12.3% from November to December, a real estate group reported Thursday.

Resale homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million last month, 2.9% below the December 2009 pace, according to the National Assn. of Realtors in Washington. The expiration of a tax credit for buyers halfway through last year depleted sales substantially last year.

“The decent increase in existing home sales in December takes them marginally above the levels seen before sales were boosted and subsequently depressed by the homebuyer tax credit,” said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics. “But high unemployment, tight credit conditions and fears of more price declines mean that further upward progress will be gradual.”

The national median price fell 1% year-over-year to $168,000 in December. Sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties -- where the borrower is behind on the mortgage payment -- rose to make up 36% of the sales market, up from 33% during the same month in 2009.

Total housing inventory at the end of December decreased to 3.56 million homes available for sale, representing about an eight-month supply at the current sales pace.

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-- Alejandro Lazo

Photo: Home in Millis, Mass. (Steven Senne/Associated Press)

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