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Home prices jump in 12 months through Nov.

U.S. home prices climbed 5.6 percent in the 12 months through November as buyers competed for a dwindling inventory of properties, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Prices rose 0.6 percent from October on a seasonally adjusted basis, the FHFA said Wednesday in a report from Washington.

The average estimate of 15 economists in a Bloomberg survey was for a 0.7 percent advance.

The index is 15 percent below its April 2007 peak and about the same as the August 2004 level.

Home prices have been climbing as growing employment and low borrowing costs fuel demand.

Sales of existing homes fell 1 percent in December to a 4.94 million annual rate, restrained by the tight supply of available properties, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed Tuesday.

“Rising prices are good news at this point and they are making the difference,” Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass., said in a telephone interview. “It brings in more buyers and sellers and lubricates the housing market. It’s going to stimulate sales.”

The 12-month advance was led by a 15 percent jump in the region that includes Arizona, Nevada and Colorado.

Prices increased 11 percent in the area that includes California, Washington and Oregon.

The smallest gain was in the region that includes New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where values rose 0.5 percent.

The FHFA data, which is based on single-family houses with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae (OTC: FNMA) or Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC), doesn’t provide a specific price.

The median price of an existing single-family home, as measured by the National Association of Realtors, was $180,800 last month, up 12 percent from a year earlier.

The real-estate agents’ report Wednesday showed a total of 4.65 million homes were sold last year, up 9.2 percent from 4.26 million in 2011 and the most since 2007.

The annual advance was the biggest since 2004.

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