MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Newly released sales figures show that home sales are up nearly 20 percent in the Twin Cities metro area.

That statistic makes 2012 the best year in the area for home sales since 2006, largely before the mortgage crisis sent home values plummeting.

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The annual wrap from the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors shows that buyers purchased 48,641 homes in the 13-county metro area, which marked an increase of 16.9 percent from the previous year.

“We are very encouraged by the recovery. Listing activity slowed, which led to less inventory, and buyers, motivated by low rates, rising rents and more job opportunities, emerged in droves,” MAAR president Andy Fazendin said.

Not only did home sales improve, but the median sales price for homes was also up significantly, rising 11.9 percent to an average of $167,900.

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The MAAR also reported that inventory levels dropped 31.8 percent to 11,875 units, which marks the lowest level in the Twin Cities in 10 years.

The report also cited multi-decade low interest rates for the uptick in sales.

“The situation varies from neighborhood to neighborhood, but homeowners should take comfort in these ongoing improvements,” St. Paul Area Association of Realtors president Kate Beckman said. “The landscape is looking much better for sellers and home affordability will remain attractive for buyers.”

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Another trend to note: lender-mediated properties made up a smaller share of sales activity.