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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

After being one of the weaker sectors of the U.S. economy in the first half of 2019, the housing sector rebounded, spurred by a trio of U.S. interest rate cuts from the Fed that lowered the cost of mortgages.

Yes, but: There are clouds on the horizon for 2020, as declining home affordability continues to be a concern, especially for first-time home buyers.

  • The median existing-home price for all housing types in December was $274,500, up almost 8% from December 2018, as prices rose in every region, NAR reported.
  • November’s price increase marked 94 straight months of year-over-year gains.

Flashback: U.S. existing-home sales rose 3.6% from November to an annual rate of 5.54 million in December and jumped nearly 11% from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors.

  • After a sluggish start to the year, following the government shutdown and rising mortgage rates, total home sales ended the year at 5.34 million, the same pace as in 2018.
  • The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.65% as of Jan. 16, according to Freddie Mac, down from 4.45% a year ago.

Watch this space: “Price appreciation has rapidly accelerated, and areas that are relatively unaffordable or declining in affordability are starting to experience slower job growth,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement.

  • “The hope is for price appreciation to slow in line with wage growth, which is about 3%.”

Go deeper:

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We all know, it’s getting worse.

Reality check: Here are a few things every one of us can do to stay safe and sane in coming months:

Biden's debut nightmare

President-elect Biden speaks in Wilmington on Nov. 24. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

A dim, gloomy scene seems increasingly set for Joe Biden's debut as president.

The state of play: He'll address — virtually — a virus-weary nation, with record-high daily coronavirus deaths, a flu season near its peak, restaurants and small businesses shuttered by wintertime sickness and spread.

Using apps to prevent deadly police encounters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Mobile phone apps are evolving in ways that can stop rather than simply document deadly police encounters with people of color — including notifying family and lawyers about potential violations in real time.

Why it matters: As states and cities face pressure to reform excessive force policies, apps that monitor police are becoming more interactive, gathering evidence against rogue officers as well as posting social media videos to shame the agencies.

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