The housing market in Yakima County ended 2012 on a positive note.

During the fourth quarter of last year, existing home sales increased by 13.1 percent from the same period in 2011, according to the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington. That increase is just above the statewide increase of 12 percent.

Figures are seasonally adjusted and annualized to provide an accurate comparison from quarter to quarter.

“It’s fairly clear that consumer confidence in housing has returned to at least a certain level,” said Glenn Crellin, associate director for research at the Runstad Center.

Home prices also increased during that time. The median resale price for Yakima County during the fourth quarter was $161,300, a 9.4 percent increase from a year ago. That increase was not as high as the statewide numbers, however, with median prices increasing by 11.8 percent to $242,500.

During the first part of 2012, the number of homes sold in Yakima County increased, but home prices remained soft as foreclosures and short sales pressured prices.

Since then, inventory has dropped drastically, causing prices to rise. As of the end of 2012, Yakima County had enough homes on the market to last 7.1 months, compared with 11.8 months a year ago. For homes in the most desired price range of $160,000 to $250,000, that time period drops to just five months.

Crellin said he does not expect prices to increase at the same rate in the coming year. More homes will go on the market, he said, leading to an increase in inventory that will moderate future price spikes.

“I think consumers are too wary of the market in light of what they went through in the last five years to jump into an overheated market, or create (one),” he said.