WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. sales of previously occupied homes rose in 2012 to their highest level in five years, spurred higher by record-low mortgage rates and steady hiring.
The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that sales reached 4.65 million last year. That's up 9.2 percent from 2011 and the most since 2007. Sales are still below the roughly 5.5 million that are consistent with a healthy market.
Sales dipped in December to a pace of 4.94 million, down from 4.99 million in November. November's figure was revised lower, but was still the highest in three years.
The supply of available homes is shrinking as sales rise. That's pushing up prices. The inventory of homes for sale dropped to 1.82 million in December, the lowest in 12 years.
Still, the housing market is recovering and most analysts expect that should continue this year.
Steady hiring, record-low mortgage rates and a tight supply of new and previously occupied homes available for sale have helped boost sales and prices in most markets.