Existing-home sales improved in all four regions in November, according to data released today by the National Association of Realtors. Overall, sales rose 5.9% for the month, surpassing the 5 million unit mark for the first time in three years.
Single-family sales were up 5.5%, while condo and coop sales shot up by 9.1%.
The rest of the report also offered plenty of reason for optimism going into 2013. Inventory, at a 4.8 months’ supply, stood at the lowest level seen in more than seven years. The share of sales held by distressed properties fell to 22%, compared to 24% in October and 29% in November 2011. And prices were strong, with a 10.1% gain in the median price compared to the previous year and the average up 9.1% annually.
“Put simply, inventories are dropping because we are not building enough homes,” wrote Patrick Newport, U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, in a statement discussing the numbers. “That is why home prices are rising in most markets today. Higher home prices, in turn, are bringing more builders into the game.”
Those low inventory levels should continue to fuel growth going into 2013, Newport says. He expects housing to “continue to improve and outperform the rest of the economy over the next few quarters,” and anticipates existing-home sales will climb 8–9% in both 2012 and 2013.
Claire Easley is a senior editor at