Existing home sales dropped 2.8 percent in December to a rate of 5.49 million units, but the National Association of Realtors said 2016 still turned out to be the best year in a decade, despite the decline.
Total existing-home sales -- completed transactions of single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops -- surpassed 2015 (5.25 million) as the highest pace since 2006 (6.48 million). Compared to December 2015, total sales are up 0.7 percent.
Sales of existing single-family homes dropped 1.8 percent in December versus November, but are still 1.5 percent higher than a year ago. Condominium and co-op sales fell 10.3 percent, and are now 4.7 percent lower than December 2015.
Regionally, sales in the Northeast dropped the most, shedding 6.2 percent for the month, but it remains 2.7 percent higher than a year ago. In the Midwest, sales decreased 3.8 percent, but are still 2.4 percent above December 2015. Sales in the South were unchanged for the month, and are 0.4 percent higher year-over-year. And in the West, sales fell 4.8 percent, and are now 1.6 percent lower from a year earlier.
"Solid job creation throughout 2016 and exceptionally low mortgage rates translated into a good year for the housing market," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR. "However, higher mortgage rates and home prices combined with record low inventory levels stunted sales in much of the country in December."
The median existing-home price for all housing types in December was $232,200, up 4.0 percent from December 2015 ($223,200).