Investment-home sales in 2012 were down slightly from the year before but remain elevated, while the median price increased, according to a survey from National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Sales for investment homes fell 2.1 percent to 1.21 million, down from 1.23 million in 2011. Overall, investment sales accounted for 24 percent of sales in 2012, the second highest share since 2005, NAR data revealed.

“Investors have been very active in the market over the past two years, attracted mostly by discounted foreclosures that could be quickly turned into profitable rentals,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “With rising prices and limited inventory, notably in the low price ranges, investors are likely to step back in coming years.”

The median price paid for investment homes increased 15 percent to $115,000 in 2012 compared to $100,000 in 2011, NAR reported. Among the investment homes bought last year, 47 percent were distressed.

Half of investment buyers also paid cash, while buyers who financed their home provided a median downpayment of 27 percent.

Investment buyers generally stayed close to home and bought homes that were a median distance of 21 miles from their residence, and 35 percent also bought more than one property.

However, just 6 percent of homes purchased by investment buyers last year have already been sold, up slightly from 5 percent in 2011. Another 8 percent plan to sell within a year.

“Property flipping modestly increased in in 2012,” Yun added. “However, this isn’t flipping in the sense of what took place during the housing boom. Rather, investors generally are renovating and improving properties before placing them back on the market to resell at a profit.”

Overall, investment buyers plan to hold their property for a median of 8 years, up from 5 years in 2011.

More than half, or 55 percent, of investment buyers said they bought the home for rental income, while 30 percent wanted to diversify their investments or saw a good opportunity, and another 20 percent wanted to use the home for vacations or as a family retreat.

NAR also profiled characteristics of investment buyers and found the median age was 45 and annual income was $87,500.

by Esther Cho