Existing home sales rose 4.0 percent in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.42 million homes, up from 4.25 million in October according to data released Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).  Sales are running 12.2 percent above the 3.94 million unit pace in November 2010.

Single-family home sales rose 4.5 percent to an annual rate of 3.95 million from 3.78 million in October.  This is 12.9 percent above the 3.50 million pace one year earlier.  Condominium and cooperative apartment sales were unchanged from the previous month at an annual rate of 470,000, 6.8 percent above the 440,000 pace in November 2010.

The median price for existing homes of all types was $164,200, down 3.5 percent from a year earlier.  Foreclosures and short sales which typically sell at deep discounts accounted for 29 percent of sales in November, up one percentage point from October but lower than the 33 percent of distressed sales recorded in November 2010.  Last month foreclosures accounted for two thirds of distressed sales and short sales for one third.

The median existing single-family home price was $164,100 in November, down 4.0 percent from a year ago and the median existing condo price was $164,600, 0.2 percent below a year earlier.  

There were 2.58 million housing units for sale at the end of the period, down 5.8 percent from October.  This is a 7.0 month supply at the current sales pace compared to a 7.7 month supply in October.  Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economists said, "Since setting a record of 4.04 million in July 2007, inventories have trended down and supplies are moving close to price stabilization levels."

Thirty-five percent of sales during the month were to first-time homebuyers, up from 34 percent in October and 32 percent in November 2010.  Investors accounted for 19 percent of transactions, little changed from either October or a year earlier.  All-cash sales accounted for 28 percent of purchases in November; they were 29 percent in October and 31 percent in November 2010.  Investors make up the bulk of cash transactions.

Yun said more people are taking advantage of the buyer's market.  "Sales reached the highest mark in 10 months and are 34 percent above the cyclical low point in mid-2010 - a genuine sustained sales recovery appears to be developing," he said.  "We've seen healthy gains in contract activity, so it looks like more people are realizing the great opportunity that exists in today's market for buyers with long-term plans."

A high level of contract failures continued in November.  Thirty-three percent of NAR members reported having at least one in November, the same as October but significantly above the 9 percent reported one year ago.  Contract failures are cancellations caused by declined mortgage applications, failures in loan underwriting from appraised values coming in below the negotiated price, or other problems including lower conforming mortgage loan limits, home inspections and employment losses.

Sales were up in every region on both a month-over-month and annual basis.  The figures for the two periods were: 

Nov. Sales Pace

Chg from Oct 2011

Chg from Nov. 2010

















Regionally, median prices were all lower than one year ago.  In the Northeast the price was down by 0.1 percent to $240,000 and the median price in the Midwest, $133,400, was 4.0 percent lower.  In the South the price was $143,300, down 2.1 percent and in the West the price was $195,300, down 8.4 percent.