While the seasonally adjusted pace of existing-home sales in the U.S. increased 2.4 percent in December to an annualized rate of 5.04 million homes, 3.5 percent higher than at the same time in 2013, total existing home sales in 2014 (4.93 million) were 3.1 percent lower than the year before (5.09 million).

That being said, sales in the second half of the year were 8 percent higher than in the first half of the year and the national median existing-home price in 2014 was $208,500, the highest median sale price since 2007 ($219,000) and a 5.8 percent increase from 2013 ($197,100).

With respect to inventory, while listings of unsold homes fell 11.1 percent in December to 1.85 million, as is typical over the holidays, listed inventory was only 0.5 percent lower at the end of the year as compared to December 2013.

The share of first-time buyers dropped from 31 percent to 29 percent in December as the total annual share of first-time buyers in 2014 (29 percent) matched the share in 2013, the lowest share of first-time buyers since 1987 (30 percent).

The share of all-cash buyer ticked up from 25 to 26 percent in December but was 7 points lower than at the same time last year (32 percent).  And while the percentage of individual investors ticked up from 15 to 17 percent last month, the share was down from 21 percent in December 2013.

In the West, existing-home sales increased 9.8 percent in December to an annual rate of 1.12 million, 2.8 percent higher than at the same time last year.

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