WASHINGTON — Existing home sales dropped 1% to a seasonally adjusted 4.94 million-unit rate in December, following a revised 4.99 million rate in November, the National Association of Realtors announced Tuesday.

The November sales rate was originally reported as a 5.04 million pace.

The sales pace was a bit below the estimate of economists polled by Thomson Reuters. They predicted a 5.1 million rate for December.

The rate is a 12.8% increase from December 2011. Sales increased 3.2% in the Northeast and 5.1% in the West, but dipped 3% in the South and 5.9% in the Midwest. The sales rate has now been above the previous year levels for 18 consecutive months, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said.

The median sales price stood at $180,800, a 0.8% climb from the previous month and an 11.5% gain from a year ago.

The inventory levels dipped from the previous month to 1.82 million existing homes, representing a 4.4-month supply at the current pace. Inventory was down 31.3% from the December 2011 level, when it was a 6.4-month supply.

Despite the sales drop in the year's final month, Yun said the past two months were still the strongest since a tax-credit fueled surge in November 2009. The year 2012 was the strongest sales year since the onset of the financial crisis in 2007, and the upswing should continue, Yun added.

"The momentum remains very strong," he said.

The biggest concern for realtors going into 2013 remains a shortage of inventory, which continues to constrain sales in some areas, Yun said.

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