BY THE NUMBERS
458 -- Number of homes sold by Chattanooga Realtors last month
398 -- Number of homes sold by Chattanooga Realtors in November
443 -- Number of homes sold by Chattanooga Realtors in December 2010
$132,250 -- Median home price in December, up 5.8 percent from November but 3.5 percent less than a year ago
Source: Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors
Home sales in the Chattanooga area jumped 15.1 percent last month, triple the nationwide gain in housing sales at the end of 2011.
Buoyed by the lowest mortgage rates in decades, the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors said Friday that 458 houses sold in the area during December, compared with 398 in the previous month. Nationwide, the National Association of Realtors said home sales rose in December by 5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.6 million homes.
Mark Hite, president of the Chattanooga Realtors, credited the gains to the relatively low mortgage interest rates, which dipped below 4 percent on many mortgages last month, and attractive prices for homes in Chattanooga, which averaged 19.6 percent cheaper than the national average.
"Mortgage interest rates are a major factor in calculating affordability," Hite said. "[Housing affordability] has been improving since the current housing downturn began in 2007."
The median price of homes sold in Chattanooga last month rose 5.8 percent to $132,250. Last month's median home price was still $4,750, or 3.5 percent, below the median price of homes sold in Chattanooga a year ago.
"A person can simply get more house for the money than they could three years ago, and the cost to borrow the money is lower than three years ago as well," said Russ Elliot, president of the Chattanooga Area Multiple Listing Service.
Elliott said the current market is the best in more than 40 years to buy or invest in a house.
The typical Chattanooga home that sold last month had been on the market for 136 days. A year ago, the typical house in Chattanooga took 146 days to sell.