The sales rate was the fastest since March's 953,000 annual rate. The gain was the largest monthly percentage jump since December 2000.
The figures were stronger than Wall Street analysts had been expecting. According to mortgage finance company Freddie Mac, the interest rate on 30-year mortgage loans averaged 6.66% in November, but rose in December.
Sales in the South increased 7.7% to a 478,000 annual rate. Midwestern states saw sales gain 13.1% to a 173,000 yearly rate. Northeastern home sales increased 6.1%. Sales in the West fell by 0.9%.