NEW YORK (CNNMoney)
Steady December home sales capped the best year for the U.S. real estate market in five years, according to an industry trade group report Tuesday.
The National Association of Realtors said that December sales of previously-owned homes came in just slightly below November's sales pace, but up 12.8% from a year ago. That brought full-year sales to 4.65 million, up 9% from 2011 and the best year for home sales since 2007, when there were 5 million homes sold just before the start of the recession.
Sales are being helped by a combination of strong market fundamentals -- near record low mortgage rates, lower unemployment and a rebound in home prices, all of which are bringing in buyers into the market who had been waiting for it to hit bottom. The mortgage rates and years of depressed home priceshave also combined to create the most affordable housing market on record, according to the Realtors group.
And the Realtors are predicting strong sales should continue into 2013 and beyond. It has a forecast for 5.1 million existing home sales this year, and 5.4 million next year.