The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has issued its report for both December existing home sales and for the entire last year.

Total sales for the year, including single-family houses, townhouses, condos, and co-ops totaled 7,072,000 units. This was 4.2 percent higher than the 6,784,000 recorded in 2004 and represented the fifth year in a row that existing home sales set a record. NAR has been keeping these sales records since 1968.

The median existing home price for the year was 208,700, up 12.7 percent from the median of $185,200 in 2004. Comparative sales figures for December 2005 and December 2004 were $211,000 and $191,000, an increase of 10.5 percent year over year.

However, total sales moderated in December, indicating what is widely assumed to be a slowing market at year end. Sales in December were down 5.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.60 million units as compared to the upwardly revised sales number of 7.0 million in November. December, 2005 sales were down 3.1 percent from those in December, 2004.

David Lereah, NAR's chief economist, was not dismayed by the slower sales figures. "This is part of the market adjustment we've been discussing, with a soft landing in sight for the housing sector," he said. He emphasized that underlying fundamentals are strong and population and employment growth will allow the housing market to remain historically high, but lower than the record pace in 2005.

Inventory levels declined to 2.80 million units at the end of December, a 5.1 month supply at present sales levels. Inventory in December 2004 was 2,214,000, a 3.9 month supply at the then-current rate.

Condo and co-op sales were up in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 877,000 units in December; this was 1.6 percent higher than November figures. For the year, condo sales were up 9.3 percent to 896,000 units which set the 10th consecutive annual record. The median price for a condo was $228,100 for the month which was 10.2 percent higher than the median in December, 2004. On an annual basis the median price for 2005 was up 12.7 percent to 218,200.

Single family houses, however, declined 6.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.72 million in December, from 6.14 million annualized units in November. December 2004 figures were also down from figures a year earlier by 4.2 percent.

The median price of a single family home was 209,300 in December, 10.8 percent higher than the prevailing median price one year earlier. The median figure for the year was $207,300, 12.6 percent higher than 2004.

On a localized basis, every region but the Northeast, which broke even, dropped from November to December and only the South held its own when it came to year-over-year sales, achieving a 1.2 percent increase over last year on an adjusted basis and just shy of a 1 percent increase on an unadjusted basis. Sales in the West fared the worse, down11.4 percent adjusted and 12.1 percent unadjusted from last year. The other three regions had lower sales but were in a narrow range of less than a negative 4 percent adjusted and 6 percent unadjusted.

Interestingly, while sales were suffering in the West, that was the region that showed the greatest increase in median prices during the year, and the South, which led in sales growth, showed the lowest growth in price. Prices in the West finished the year 14 percent higher than last year - $318,000 vs. 279,000 while the South increased 4.6 percent from $174,000 to $182,000. Median prices nationally and in most regions hit a peak for the year in August and have trended downward since.