Home sales in the United States hit 6.48 million last year, the highest total since the peak of the real estate boom.
Sales of existing homes in the United States rose 0.7% in December, pushing the whole of 2020 at a pace unmatched in 14 years and providing one of the few bright spots for a US economy mired in a global pandemic .
Rising sales in the last month of the year brought activity to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.76 million units in December, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported on Friday.
For 2020 as a whole, sales reached 6.48 million, the highest total since 2006 at the height of the real estate boom. This was a 5.6% gain from the 5.34 million homes previously sold in 2019.
The median selling price was $ 309,800 in December, up 12.9% from a year ago.
The sharp rise in prices reflects strong demand as Americans locked in by the coronavirus pandemic and forced to work from home seek to move to larger homes. Sales were driven by historically low mortgage rates.
Economists have predicted that these trends will continue this year, although mortgage rates may rise slightly from record lows if the economy improves as expected as vaccines become more widely available.
“Expect economic conditions to improve with additional stimulus measures to come and vaccine distribution is already underway,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the NAR.
“As COVID-19 levels drop due to vaccinations and warmer weather, expect more Americans to put their homes on the market,” predicted Robert Frick, Navy business economist Federal Credit Union.
The inventory of unsold homes fell to an all-time low of 1.9 months, down from 2.3 months in November and 3 months a year ago. Homes typically stayed on the market for 21 days in December, compared to 41 days a home would be on the market before being sold in December 2019.
Economists said home builders have boosted construction in response to strong demand, but still face supply constraints such as a lack of available building land.
For December, sales of single-family homes increased 0.7 percent to a rate of 6.03 million while condominium sales rose 1.4 percent to 730,000.