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Stats Indicate Strong Prices, Steady Demand Going into 2014

Despite the numerous challenges that sprang up throughout 2013, the housing market still managed to finish the year in a healthier position than in 2012, according to the latest figures from ""Realtor.com"":http://www.realtor.com/.

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The site's ""statistics for December"":http://news.move.com/2014-01-21-Realtor-com-December-2013-Yearly-Figures-Indicate-Strong-Prices-and-Steady-Demand-Moving-into-New-Year indicate the median national list price ended 2013 at $194,500, up 8.1 percent compared to the end of 2012. Relative to November, however, prices were down 1.6 percent--marking the late arrival of the ""usual seasonal winter slow down,"" Realtor.com says.

""Bidding wars and all-cash offers left many home buyers empty handed after the summer home buying season,"" said Errol Samuelson, president of Realtor.com. ""In fact, many buyers remained in the market throughout the fall in an effort to get ahead of the competition--extending the summer season and making housing indicators resilient to usual seasonal patterns.""

The number of listings as of the end of December was an estimated 1.7 million, up 1 percent year-over-year but down 6.2 percent month-over-month. Much of the year saw accelerated price growth and increased competition among buyers as would-be sellers remained on the sidelines due to low equity or other concerns.

Meanwhile, demand from buyers remained strong, even with the winter slump. The median age of inventory in December was 112 days, up 10.9 percent from November but down 5.1 percent from the prior year.

""As we open the new year, the first quarter inventory figures are especially crucial as our first barometer into seller confidence for the 2014 home buying season,"" Samuelson said. ""The market is still showing significant demand, but in order to have a strong home buying season, sellers need to put their homes on the market.""

There are factors besides seller confidence to consider when it comes to 2014 housing. In the group's most recent ""Confidence Index"":http://www.realtor.org/reports/realtors-confidence-index, the National Association of Realtors' (NAR) chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said regulatory changes coming from Washington--like those instituted earlier in January by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau--run the risk of hamstringing lending activity if pursued without an eye toward balance.

Another concern, Realtor.com says, is January's implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which the site's analysts fear may negatively impact consumer finances.

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