NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Existing-home sales rose 12.3% in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million units, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday morning. Economists' consensus call had been for the figure to come in at 4.8 million units, according to estimates listed on Briefing.com, compared with a rate of 4.68 million units sold in November. While the rate improved, it remained 2.9% below the 5.44 million units recorded in December 2009.
"December was a good finish to 2010, when sales fluctuate more than normal," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "The December pace is near the volume we're expecting for 2011, so the market is getting much closer to an adequate, sustainable level." The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $168,800 in December, up 1% year-over-year. Distressed homes accounted for 36% of all existing-home sales last month, up slightly from a 33% share in November.