The National Association of Realtors last Thursday reported existing home sales were up 27.2% for the last three months of 2009 versus a year earlier. This amounted to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6 million homes. -- a 13.9% increase over the third quarter's annual rate of 5.29 million homes. Clearly, buyers are taking advantage of the low mortgage interest rates and the tax credit that was extended and expanded by Congress. Both these government stimulus programs are slated to end in the Spring.
The existing home sales increase from Q3 to Q4 occurred in 48 states and D.C., with 32 of those states showing double-digit gains. Year-over-year, sales were higher in 49 states and D.C., up by double digits in all but 3 states. And distressed property made up just 32% of Q4 sales versus 37% of sales a year ago. The national median price of an existing single-family home, at $172,900, was down 4.1% year-over-year -- but that was the smallest price decline in over two years. Even better, out of the 151 metropolitan statistical areas studied, 67 of them showed a RISE in the median home price.
Today's majority of loan defaults are from prime borrowers, rather than sub-prime that dominated the market last year. Some say recent price increases may be a reflection of higher priced REO's on the market.