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Home Sales Climb to All-Time High in 2004

January 25, 2005
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WASHINGTON - (AP) - Sales of previously owned homes rose 9.4 percent to an all-time high of 6.68 million units last year while the median price of those homes rose at the fastest clip in 24 years, a real estate trade group said Tuesday.

The National Association of Realtors said that it marked the fourth straight year that home resales have set a record, reflecting a boom in housing generated by some of the lowest mortgage rates in four decades.

The median sales price of an existing home rose to $184,100 last year, up 8.3 percent from 2003 and the fastest gain since home prices jumped by 11.7 percent in 1980.

Sales of new homes are also expected to set a record when the government releases December data next Monday.

Analysts are predicting the housing market will cool off a bit in 2005 as mortgage rates rise in response to a credit tightening campaign by the Federal Reserve, which began boosting interest rates last June in an effort to ward off inflationary pressures.

Some of that impact might being felt already as home sales in December dipped 3.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.69 million units. However, that decline came off a monthly record of 6.92 million units at an annual rate set in November.

Housing has been the all-star performer in the current recovery as buyers have enjoyed the lowest mortgage rates many of them have seen in their working lives.

Even with the Fed's rate increases last year, 30-year mortgages averaged 5.84 percent for all of 2004, up only slightly from an average of 5.83 in 2003, which was the lowest annual average ever recorded on a Freddie Mac survey that goes back to 1971.

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