WASHINGTON — U.S. sales of previously occupied homes jumped to their highest level in three years last month, bolstered by steady job gains and record-low mortgage rates.
The National Association of Realtors said today that sales rose 5.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in November. That's up from 4.76 million in October.
The Ohio Association of Realtors also released sales numbers today, although they are for both new and existing homes.
In Toledo, 624 units were sold last month, up 20.7 percent from November, 2011. The average price of $106,978 was 9 percent higher than last year.
For Ohio, sales were up 23.6 percent and the average price rose 8.5 percent.
Nationwide, previously occupied home sales are on track for their best year in five years. November's sales were the highest since November, 2009, when a federal tax credit that was soon to expire spurred sales. Excluding that month, last month's sales were the highest since July, 2007.
Sales are up 14.5 percent from a year ago, though they remain below the roughly 5.5 million that are consistent with a healthy market.
Job growth and low home-loan rates have helped drive purchases. Prices are also rising, which encourages more potential buyers to come off the sidelines and purchase homes. And more people may put their homes on the market if they feel confident they can sell at a good price.
In addition, the excess supply of homes that built up during the housing bubble has finally thinned out. The number of previously occupied homes available for sale fell to a 10-year low in October. The supply of new homes is also near its lowest level since 1963.
At the same time, more people are looking to buy or rent a home after living with relatives or friends during and immediately after the Great Recession.
These trends have supported a steady recovery in housing. Builder confidence rose in December for a seventh straight month to the highest level in more than 6½ years, according to a survey released Tuesday by the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo.
The pace of home construction slipped in November, but it was still nearly 22 percent higher than a year earlier. Builders are on track this year to start work on the most homes in four years.
Economists note that the increase in building should lead to more construction jobs, though it hasn't yet done so. That could mean more construction hiring is coming.