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Existing Home Sales report for December

The December existing home sales report was published on Monday. December sales were down 17% from November due to the planned expiration of the $8,000 first-time home buyers' credit.  November was artificially high and December artificially low.  Existing home sales were up 15% from a year ago and are now at a rate of 5.5mm.  Overall for all of 2009 the pace was 5.2mm homes, up 5% from 2008.

The December existing home sales report was published on Monday. December sales were down 17% from November due to the planned expiration of the $8,000 first-time home buyers' credit.  November was artificially high and December artificially low.  Existing home sales were up 15% from a year ago and are now at a rate of 5.5mm.  Overall for all of 2009 the pace was 5.2mm homes, up 5% from 2008.

The impact of the tax credit expiration can be seen by first-time buyer percentages.  In November 51% of transactions were to first time buyers.  This fell to 43% in December.  

The tax credit was extended through April, and was expanded to include all buyers.  There will be more data discontinuities in the Spring as a result, but by Summer the gyrations should dampen.

The average home price is now $178,300, up 1.5% from last year.  

The housing inventory jumped from a supply of 6.5 months in November to 7.2 months in December; 6.0 months is considered "normal."  There are 3.3 million homes on the market, which is 11% lower than last December.  

Distressed properties accounted for 32% of the units sold.  Most of the action was in the low priced home segment.  Higher priced homes continue to be a drag on the market.

The average 30 year fixed rate was 4.93% in December, up a bit from November.

The West had the strongest market as the year ended, with declining inventory and rising prices.  Prices stood 3% higher than a year ago.