Existing home sales increased 4.0% in November to a seasonally adjusted 4.42 million-unit rate, after a downwardly revised 4.25 million unit rate in October, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced Wednesday. NAR announced its benchmark revisions.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters predicted 5.05 million sales.

On a year-over-year basis, sales overall were up 12.2% from a 3.94 million unit sales pace last November.

“Sales reached the highest mark in 10 months and are 34 percent above the cyclical low point in mid-2010 – a genuine sustained sales recovery appears to be developing,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “We’ve seen healthy gains in contract activity, so it looks like more people are realizing the great opportunity that exists in today’s market for buyers with long-term plans.”
The 2010 benchmark shows there were 4,190,000 existing-home sales last year, a 14.6% revision from the previously projected 4,908,000 sales. For the 2007 through 2010 period, sales and inventory were downwardly revised by 14.3%. The revisions are expected to have a minor impact on future revisions to Gross Domestic Product.

Sales rose in the four regions of the country in November, increasing 9.8% in the Northeast to 560,000, climbing 4.3% to 960,000 units in the Midwest; and jumping 2.4% in the South to 1.74 million. In the West sales grew 3.6% to 1.16 million units, NAR said.

Inventory levels sank 5.8% at the end of November, to 2.58 million existing homes for sale, representing an 7.0-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 7.7 months in last month’s report.

Meanwhile, the national median existing home price was $164,200 in November, off 3.5% from a year ago.

The national average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was a record low 3.99%, in November down from October’s 4.07%, NAR said. The rate was 4.30% in November 2010.

“With record low mortgage interest rates and bargain home prices, NAR’s housing affordability index shows that a median-income family can easily afford a median-priced home,” said Moe Veissi, NAR president.

“With consumer price inflation rising by more than 3% this year, consumers are looking to lock-in steady payments by taking out long-term fixed-rate mortgages. However, the problem remains that some financially qualified families who are willing to stay well within their means are being denied the opportunity to buy in today’s market by the overly restrictive mortgage underwriting situation,” Veissi said

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