The median price of existing single-family homes grew 10% $178,900 in the fourth quarter, up 10% from $162,600 in the fourth quarter of 2011, the largest year-over-year gain since the last quarter of 2005, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The median price increased in 133 out of 152 metropolitan statistical areas, after 120 areas posted higher prices in the third quarter, and just 29 areas grew in the fourth quarter of 2011.

"Home sales are on a sustained uptrend, mortgage interest rates are hovering near record lows and unsold inventory is at the lowest level in 12 years," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. "Home sales are being fueled by a pent-up demand and job creation, along with still favorable affordability conditions and rents rising at faster rates. Our population has been growing faster than overall housing stock, so supply and demand dynamics are very much at play."

The median price is where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions.

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