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WASHINGTON — Sales of existing U.S. homes edged up slightly in December, helping to lift sales for the year to the highest level in seven years.
Sales increased to an annual rate of 4.87 million units last month, up 1 percent from the November sales pace, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday. Both months represented a slower pace of sales than earlier in 2013, reflecting the drag from higher mortgage rates and higher home prices.
For all of 2013, sales totaled 5.09 million, the best performance since 2006, when sales climbed to 6.48 million. However, the sales gains in both 2005 and 2006 represented an unsustainable housing bubble. Analysts say a more normal sales pace now would be about 5.5 million units.
The median price of an existing home rose 11.5 percent last year to $197,100, the highest in eight years.
In Ohio, 2013 sales of new and existing homes totaled 132,566, a 14.7 percent increase from the 115,565 sales posted in 2012. It was the market’s best yearly total since 2007, when sales reached 132,571.
Ohio’s average sale price for the year was $142,004, up 5.2 percent from the $135,042 average posted in 2012.
“The Ohio housing market is continuing to make headway in its effort to overcome the difficulties caused by the economic downturn,” said Chris Hall of Oregon, who recently was installed as president of the Ohio Association of Realtors. “While we continue to face a number of challenges on our path to full recovery, Ohio’s year-end 2013 sales results are reflective of a balanced, stable, and growing marketplace.”
In Michigan, sales were up 1.5 percent to $126,977, according to the Michigan Association of Realtors. The average sales price rose 12.8 percent to $124,716.
The state statistics only include home sales that involved a Realtor.
In northwest Ohio, there were 7,214 sales in 2013, up 6 percent from 2012, according to the Toledo Board of Realtors.
The average sales price of $112,609 was 7 percent higher than in 2012.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, expects sales will remain around the 2013 level of 5.09 million in 2014 as such factors as tighter mortgage lending standards and limited inventories impede further progress in the housing market.
But other forecasters are more optimistic. Patrick Newport, an economist at Global Insight, predicted that sales growth would slow a bit from last year’s 8.8 percent rise. He predicted a 5.1 percent increase this year to 5.33 million.