Thursday saw Existing Home Sales shoot up 12.3% in December, to an annual rate of 5.28 million, well ahead of the 4.87 million rate the consensus expected. Overall, existing home sales are off 2.9% compared to a year ago, but that’s when sales were artificially boosted by the homebuyer tax credits. All regions showed sales gains in single family homes, condos and coops.

The supply of existing homes dropped to 8.1 months from 9.5 months in November. The pace of existing home sales is up 38% since July and sales are now only around 5% off the long-term trend, which has been a 5.5 million annual pace. All this has happened without government tax credit support. Smart buyers don’t want to miss out on housing affordability that’s at its highest level in 40 years.

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