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March Existing-Home Sales Fall

Existing-home sales fell 3.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.57 million units from a downwardly revised level of 4.71 million in February, NAR reported this morning. March sales were 7.1 percent lower than the 4.92 million-unit pace recorded the same period a year ago. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $175,200, down 12.4 percent from March 2008. Distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) accounted for slightly more than half of all home transactions in March.

Total housing inventory fell 1.6 percent to 3.74 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.8-month supply at the current sales pace, up slightly from the 9.7-month supply in February.

Existing-home sales fell in March from the prior year in three of the nation’s four regions: 22.5 percent in the Northeast; 11.1 percent in the Midwest; and 10.9 percent in the South. Sales rebounded 18.9 percent in the West, due largely to an increase in sales of distressed properties.

NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun took an optimistic view of the latest numbers and indicated that the market appears to be stabilizing. “The share of lower-priced home sales has trended up, indicating a return of many first-time buyers, which we also see in a parallel member survey,” he Yun says. “By early summer we should be seeing a positive impact on home sales from record-low mortgage interest rates in addition to the stimulus provisions.”

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