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Home sales jump 5.9% in November

Posted at 12:04 PM, Dec 20, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-20 12:04:53-05

By Les Christie

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Superstorm Sandy did not derail the housing market’s momentum in November. Sales of existing homes rose 5.9 %, according to an industry report, to an annual pace of 5.04 million. That was up from 4.76 million a month earlier and from an annual rate of 4.39 million in November 2011.

November sales far-exceeded industry expectations. A panel of industry experts surveyed by had forecast an annualized sales rate of 4.9 million. The report, from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), also showed a year-over-year increase of 10.1% in the median price of homes sold during the month to $180,600.

Sales jumped 6.9% compared with October in the Northeast region, the area most affected by the storm. The Midwest did even better, up 7.2%, and the South topped them both with a 7.9% increase. Sales in the West were nearly flat, edging up 0.8%. Home sales are still well below the record high set during the mid-2000’s housing boom, when they hit an annual rate of 7.1 million in 2005.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said the market is experiencing healthy demand.

“Momentum continues to build in the housing market from growing jobs and a [jump in] household formation,” he said.

However, the storm did reduce gains, according to Yun. “Areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy show storm-related disruptions, but overall activity in the Northeast is up, offset by gains in unaffected areas,” he said.

Three main factors contributed to housing’s strength during the month, according to Stuart Hoffman, chief economist for PNC Financial Services Group.

“Low prices and mortgage rates have made housing very affordable, and job gains have boosted confidence, leading to improving home sales and more building,” he said in a release.

An improving economy not only enables more Americans to buy homes, it also helps financially stressed homeowners keep up with their mortgage payments and avoid foreclosure. Bank repossessions and other foreclosure filings have fallen to their lowest level in more than five years, according to RealtyTrac, the online marketer of foreclosed properties.

Inventory of existing homes for sale fell to a 4.8 month supply, down from a 7.0 month supply last November.

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