Home sales rose in 56 markets across the United States in December, according to a monthly housing report released Monday.

The December average of home sales were up 9.73% in December from the previous month, and up 11.36% from the same period a year ago, the Associated Press and RE/MAX said in the report.

"We're very pleased that home sales are starting to pick up in some areas," said Margaret Kelly, Chief Executive Officer of RE/MAX International, Inc. "Lower home prices are certainly motivating buyers and this is exactly what the market needs right now."

The increase in sales is largely the result of higher sales in California, where sales were up 75.55% in the Los Angeles metro area and up 44.42% in San Diego on an annual basis. Other noteworthy increases were seen in Las Vegas (up 82.3%), Phoenix (up 69.24%) and Miami (up 68.78%).

The report also reveals that inventories are beginning to diminish, a trend some analysts say signals the start of the end of the housing slump. The average number of homes for sale on the market was down 7.69% from November and down 3.93% from a year ago.

Nevertheless, Kelly said government intervention is still needed. "While we support lender-incentives to reduce foreclosures, it may also be necessary for the government to stimulate the market with lower interest rates and tax credits to encourage homebuyers and a return to more normal conditions," she said.

By Sarah Sussman and edited by Stephen Huebl
©CEP News Ltd. 2009