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Home sales jump to highest pace in three years

December 20, 2012|By E. Scott Reckard
  • A home for sale in Monterey Park last month. U.S. home sales jumped to a 5-million annual pace in November, the highest in three years.
A home for sale in Monterey Park last month. U.S. home sales jumped to a 5-million… (Nick Ut / Associated Press )

Low mortgage rates and job gains are continuing to boost the housing market, with sales of existing homes at the highest level in three years and new housing construction up 21.6% in November from a year earlier.

Homes were being sold last month at an annual pace of 5.04 million, the National Assn. of Realtors said in an update Thursday.

It was the highest rate of sales for November since 2009, when a federal housing tax credit was about to expire. Excluding that month, sales were the highest since July 2007.

The national median price for a home being resold was $180,600 in November, up 10.1% from a year earlier -- the ninth straight monthly year-over-year price gain, the Realtors group said.

"Momentum continues to build in the housing market from growing jobs and a bursting out of household formation," said Lawrence Yun, economist for the trade group. "With lower rental vacancy rates and rising rents, combined with still historically favorable affordability conditions, more people are buying homes.”

Quiz: How much do you know about mortgages?

Separately Thursday, the government said private housing starts in November were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 861,000 compared to the November 2011 rate of 708,000.

Home-building completions  were up 16% from a year earlier, according to a release from the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Demand for homes has been driven in part by the Federal Reserve's aggressive bond-buying program, which has pushed mortgage interest rates down to unprecedented lows. 

Lenders this week were offering 30-year fixed-rate mortgages to solid borrowers at an average of 3.37%, Freddie Mac said in its latest survey, released Thursday. That was up from 3.32% last week but far below the 4.8% rate that prevailed just two years ago.

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