Existing-home sales ended 2012 on a disappointing note, but the preliminary estimates for 2012’s total sales and December’s rock-bottom inventory levels brightened the National Association of Realtor’s year-end report, released today. Sales slipped 1.0% in December to a 4.94 million annual rate. The drop came from single-family, which was down 1.4% for the month, while condo and coop sales were up 1.7%. The year as a whole, however, logged a total of 4.65 million sales, a 9.2% improvement compared to 2011 and the highest number of sales seen since 2007. Single-family sales were up 9.0% for the year, and condo and coop sales improved 10.7%. Prices were also brighter, with the year’s median home price up 6.3% compared to 2011, to $176,600. Inventory slipped four-tenths to a 4.4-month supply, the lowest seen since May 2005. Such tight supply levels bode well for the future, according to Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight. “Because of low and falling inventories and low interest rates, the housing market will continue to improve and outperform the rest of the economy over the next few quarters,” he wrote in a statement discussing the numbers today. “Existing-home sales should climb close to 8% in 2013.” See the National Association of Realtor’s full report for existing-home sales in December and preliminary estimates for 2012. Claire Easley is a senior editor at Builder.