The median price for single-family home resales was up from a year earlier in over 44% of the areas included in the trade group's quarterly survey.
Some of the metro areas showing the biggest gains from a year earlier were Cleveland (25%), Akron, Ohio, (23%) and San Francisco (13%).
The seasonally adjusted annual rate of previously occupied homes sold jumped 13.9% from the third quarter. The national median price rose 2.9%.
Existing-home sales in the West jumped 16.2% in the fourth quarter to an annual rate of 1.38 million and are 18.2% above a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the West was $227,200 in the fourth quarter, which is 8.9% below the fourth quarter of 2008, but with many areas showing notable gains.
“Markets in the West such as San Francisco, San Jose and Denver are showing double-digit price increases, and other markets like San Diego and Anaheim have begun to firm up,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR.
"The surge in home sales was driven by buyers responding strongly to the tax credit combined with record-low mortgage interest rates," said Yun, "With inventory levels trending down over the past 18 months, we expect broadly balanced housing market conditions in much of the country by late spring with more areas showing higher prices."