Sales of single-family homes in Maine rose nearly 12 percent in December, and jumped 17 percent for the full year amid low interest rates, reasonable selling prices and shrinking inventory on the market.

The number of homes sold in December totaled 888 statewide, up from 794 homes a year ago, according to the Maine Real Estate Information System. The median sales price rose 6.25 percent from a year ago, to $170,000.

Realtors sold 11,512 homes across the state in 2012, up 17 percent over 2011.

“Many buyers have been sitting on the sideline waiting for just the ‘right’ time to begin the home-buying process, and 2012 seemed to offer the right alignments,” said Bart Stevens, president of the Maine Association of Realtors. “Declining inventory, coupled with historically low interest rates and reasonable home prices, made for an attractive time to jump into the market.”

Realtors saw a steady stream of first-time home buyers and also a significant number of people moving up in the market to bigger homes, Stevens said.

Nationally, sales of existing single-family homes jumped 11.5 percent in December, and the median sales price rose 10.9 percent to $180,300. In the Northeast, December sales rose 10.3 percent and the median sales price increased 5.3 percent to $231,600, according to the National Association of Realtors.

“Although December is traditionally a slower time of year for real estate, many sellers understand the importance of having their homes on the market when buyers are out looking,” said Stevens, owner/broker of Century 21 Nason Realty in Winslow.

Home sales may fall in January and February, when Maine’s real estate market cools for the winter, but because interest rates have remained low, Realtors said they expect 2013 to be strong overall.

“The market still demands patience from sellers. Some houses are going quickly — in less than 30 days — in most cases there’s still a good amount of inventory to look at and it requires time,” said Tina Lucas of Lucas Real Estate in Portland. “The market’s moving at a good, modest pace and that’s important. We want a stable market.”

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhall@pressherald.com