Despite the holiday season and declining available inventory, sales of previously owned homes rose 2.4 percent in December, according to the National Association of Realtors. The increase pushed sales 3.5 percent above last year’s level and marked the third consecutive month existing-home sales were up year-over-year. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said 2014 got off to a sluggish start but sales activity was encouraging the second half of the year. “Home sales improved over the summer once inventory increased, prices moderated, and economic growth accelerated,” Yun said. In fact, home sales during the second half of the year were 8 percent higher than the first six months of 2014. But despite the encouraging end to the year, Yun cautions that limited inventory may help drive prices up, which could offset the boosted demand from prospective buyers looking to take advantage of an improved economy and mortgage rates still hovering near historic lows. As of December, the median existing-home price for all housing types was $209,500, which is 6 percent higher than it was in December 2013. More here.