Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Existing-Home Sales Reach Highest Annual Level Since 2006 but Weaken in December 2021

NAR released a summary of existing-home sales data showing that housing market activity this December declined 4.6% from November 2021, after three consecutive months of increases. December's existing-home sales reached a 6.18 million seasonally adjusted annual rate. December's sales of existing homes declined 7.1% from December 2020. The 2021 annual existing-home sales1 of 6.12 million hit their highest level since 2006. This year also showed the strongest home price appreciation of 16.9% as the median existing-home sales price reached $346,900, a gain of $50,200 compared to the prior year.
Line graph: U.S. existing-home sales, December 2020 to December 2021

The national median existing-home price for all housing types rose to $358,000 in December, up 15.8% percent from a year ago. Home prices have continued to rise, and this marks the 118th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Bar graph: U.S. and regional median sales price of existing-home sales, December 2021 and December 2020

Regionally, in December, all four regions showed strong price growth from a year ago. The South had the largest gain of 20.2% followed by the Midwest with an increase of 10%. The West showed an increase of 8.4% and the Northeast had the smallest price gain of 6.3% from December 2020.

December's inventory is now at an all-time low. Inventory of unsold listings as of the end of the month dropped 18.0% from last month, standing at 910,000 homes for sale, falling for the fifth consecutive month on a month-over-month basis. Compared with December of 2020, inventory levels are 14.2% lower. This would mark 31 straight months of year-over-year declines. It will take 1.8 months to move the current level of inventory at the current sales pace, well below the desired pace of six months.

Demand remains strong as home buyers are snatching listings quickly off the MLS and it takes approximately 19 days for a home to go from listing to a contract in the current housing market. A year ago, it took 21 days.

Bar graph: Inventory of existing homes for sale, December 2020 to December 2021

From a year ago, all of the four regions had declines in sales in December. The Northeast had the biggest dip of 15.7% followed by the West which fell 10.2%. The South decreased 5.3% followed by the Midwest which had the smallest decline in sales of 0.7%.

Compared to November 2021, all of the four regions also showed reductions in sales in December. The West region had the largest decline of 6.8% followed by the South with a dip of 6.3%. The Midwest and the Northeast both shared the smallest decrease of 1.3%.

The South led all regions in percentage of national sales, accounting for 43.7% of the total, while the Northeast had the smallest share at 12.1%.

Bar graph: Regional existing-home sales and year-over-year percent change, December 2021 and December 2020

In December, single-family sales decreased 4.3% and condominiums sales were down 7.0% compared to last month. Single-family home sales were down 6.8% while condominium sales fell 9.6% compared to a year ago. The median sales price of single-family homes rose to 16.1 at $364,300 from December 2020, while the median sales price of condominiums rose 11.9% at $305,100.

Line graph: Year-over-year percent change in single-family and condominium existing-home sales, January 2020 to December 2021
Line graph: Year-over-year percent change in single-family and condominium median sales prices, January 2020 to December 2021

1 The annual level of homes sales is the sum of non-seasonally adjusted sales for the month over 12 months.