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Redfin: Sales, Listings, Prices Slip in December

The housing market felt December's chill as home sales, listings, and prices all slipped, according to ""Redfin's"":http://www.redfin.com/ Real-Time Price Tracker.

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Redfin's Price Tracker, a monthly report on prices, sales, and inventory across 19 U.S. markets, is based on local multiple listing services used directly by real estate agents to list properties and record sales.

According to the data for December, all three of the indicators tracked took a plunge during the holidays.

While it's not unusual to see the market cool off in the holiday season, December's decline in listings was considerable compared to the years prior. According to Redfin, listings were down 11.5 percent from November, 33 percent from December 2011, and 44 percent from December 2010. Redfin reports fewer than 160,000 total listings across its 19 measured markets as of the end of the year.

As of December, inventory has dropped on a year-over-year basis for 22 months in a row, according to Redfin's data.

""Despite consistent home price gains since February, homeowners are still reluctant to list their homes for sale,"" Redfin analyst Tim Ellis commented on the company's ""blog"":http://blog.redfin.com/blog/2013/01/sales_slip_listings_plummet_but_home_prices_keep_rising_as_2012_concludes_inventory_growth_key_to_2013_performance.html. ""Meanwhile, builders are moving to fill the gap, as data released last week show that private residential construction spending increased again in November.""

The lack of selection proved to have a hindering effect on sales, which declined 4.1 percent from November to reach the lowest level in 10 months, Redfin reports. However, despite the decline, sales were still up 3.4 percent year-over-year, and 15 of the 19 markets tracked by the company saw sales increase in that time.

Sales were up 9 percent across all of 2012 compared to 2011.

News on the listings front wasn't all bad, however. From December 1 through the 24, 27.5 percent of new listings were under contract within two weeks, virtually unchanged from November and October. For the year as a whole, 26 percent of listings were under contract within 14 days, up from 17 percent in 2011.

While the quick purchase of homes may be bad news for buyers hoping for a slightly more leisurely home search, it's no doubt welcome news for sellers.

Nationally, home prices hit a minor pothole in December, sliding back 0.4 percent on a monthly basis. However, prices were up 11.3 percent year-over-year, and Redfin reports that this year's slight drop between November and December was less than that of last year. December was the ninth month in a row to see prices rise nationally on an annual basis and the second straight month in which prices rose in all 19 of the cities tracked.

In the end, though December posted expectedly mild numbers, Redfin expects the current trends should set sellers up nicely in the new year.

""With some notable exceptions (mostly in California), the current housing market in most areas could hardly be described as 'hot,' but it is definitely still a frustrating one for potential buyers, with sparse selection, persistent multiple offer situations, and increasing prices in every market we track,"" Ellis wrote. ""For homeowners whose equity affords them the ability to sell, 2013 is shaping up to be a good year to list.""

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