A growing number of metropolitan areas saw higher median home prices in the fourth quarter, with the national price showing the strongest year-over-year increase in seven years, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).Â
The median existing single-family home price rose in 133 out of 152 metropolitan statistical areas nationwide - including Barnstable and the Greater Boston area - based on closings in the fourth quarter compared with same quarter in 2011, while 19 areas, including Springfield and Worcester, saw prices decline.Â In the third quarter 120 areas showed increases from a year earlier, while in the fourth quarter of 2011 only 29 metros were up.
In last year's fourth quarter, home prices in Barnstable increased 2.9 percent, to $320,500 last year from $311,500 in 2011. In the Greater Boston area, home prices increased 1.4 percent, to $351,200 from $346,200 in 2011. Home prices fell 1.4 percent in Springfield, to $178,900 from $181,400 the previous year. In Worcester, home prices dropped 1.7 percent, from $209,600 in 2011 to $206,000 last year.
Â "Home sales are on a sustained uptrend, mortgage interest rates are hovering near record lows and unsold inventory is at the lowest level in 12 years," Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said in a statement.Â "Home sales are being fueled by a pent-up demand and job creation, along with still favorable affordability conditions and rents rising at faster rates.Â Our population has been growing faster than overall housing stock, so supply and demand dynamics are very much at play."Â
The national median existing single-family home price was $178,900 in the fourth quarter, up 10 percent from $162,600 in the fourth quarter of 2011, the strongest year-over-year price increase since the fourth quarter of 2005 when the median price jumped 13.6 percent.Â In the third quarter the price rose 8.8 percent from a year earlier.
Total existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, rose 5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.9 million in the fourth quarter from 4.66 million in the third quarter, and were 12.1 percent above the 4.37 million pace during the fourth quarter of 2011. Sales in the last quarter were at the highest level since the fourth quarter of 2009 when they reached 4.95 million.
At the end of the fourth quarter there were 1.82 million existing homes available for sale, which is 21.6 percent below the close of the fourth quarter of 2011 when 2.32 million homes were on the market. Unsold inventory is at the lowest level since January 2001 when there were 1.78 million homes for sale. Â