NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The year 2013 was another of recovery for the U.S. housing market, with prices and sales volume continuing to rise in most areas, but the percentage of distressed home sales actually increased from 2012.
Short sales -- sales in which lenders agree to settle loans when homes are sold for less than the amount owed by the borrower -- and foreclosure sales made up 16.2% of all home sales in the United states during 2013, up from 14.5% in 2012 and 15.2% in 2011, according to RealtyTrac.
The real estate information provider on Thursday released its December and Year-End 2013 U.S. Residential & Foreclosure Sales Report, showing total home sales in December at an annualized pace of 5,167,255, increasing less than 1% from November, but up 12% from December 2012.
Despite the impressive year-over-year aggregate sales growth figure, there are signs of a slow-down: "Counter to the national trend, annualized sales volume declined from a year ago in 18 of the nation's 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas and was down in five states: California, Arizona, Nevada, Rhode Island and Oregon," RealtyTrac said.
The national median home sale price was $168,391 during December, "virtually unchanged" from the previous month, but up 2% from a year earlier. For distressed residential properties, the national median sale price was $108,494 during December, "38 percent below the median price of $174,401 for a non-distressed residential property," RealtyTrac said. Many homes in foreclosure have been neglected for several years, with plenty of wear-and-tear from deferred maintenance and other factors.
"It may surprise some to see distressed sales rising in 2013 given that foreclosure starts dropped to a seven-year low for the year," said RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist in a company press release. "And while short sales did trend lower in the second half of the year, there are still more than 1.2 million properties in the foreclosure process or bank-owned, providing a sizable pool of inventory that the housing market is in the process of absorbing."
"Meanwhile, non-distressed sellers have not listed their homes for sale in droves, helping to keep the distressed share of sales at a stubbornly high level," Blomquist added.
-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.