SYDNEY, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Sales of new homes in Australia fell slightly in December but still ended the year with solid gains, the first annual rise since 2008, an industry survey showed on Thursday.
The Housing Industry Association (HIA) said its survey of large builders showed sales of new homes dipped 0.4 percent in December, following a sharp rise in November.
Sales of new detached houses rose 0.9 percent in December, while the volatile multi-unit sector dropped 6.6 percent.
For the whole fourth quarter sales were still up 6.3 percent, while sales for all of 2013 increased by 14.4 percent.
"Total new home sales were largely unchanged in the month of December, however, the broader trend shows a healthy profile of recovery throughout 2013 and the underlying details are also fairly encouraging," said HIA economist Diwa Hopkins.
The Reserve Bank of Australia has been counting on a revival in home construction to help support the economy as a long boom in mining investment finally peaks.
Record-low interest rates have led to a marked pick-up in home prices and clearance rates at auctions, while approvals to build new homes are trending sharply higher. (Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Eric Meijer)