Purchases of new U.S. homes unexpectedly dropped in December, indicating that the U.S. housing rebound will take time to develop after the industry completed its first year of recovery, Bloomberg reported. 

Sales declined 7.3 percent to a 369,000 annual pace following a 398,000 rate in November that was higher than previously estimated and the strongest in more than two years, according to Commerce Department figures. The median estimate of 77 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for sales to reach 385,000 last month.

Even with December's slip, 367,000 new homes were purchased for all of 2012, the most since 2009 and the first annual gain in seven years, showing the housing market is on the road to recovery. A dearth of previously owned properties in the U.S., mortgage rates near record lows, healthier job prospects and a rising number of households should stoke demand for newly constructed homes this year.