Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Home Sales Ease, Conditions Mixed

Existing-home sales declined slightly in February, with modest gains in the Northeast and Midwest offset by softer sales in the South and West, NAR says. Sales slipped 0.6 percent nationally to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.02 million units in February from 5.05 million in January, but are 7 percent higher than the 4.69 million-unit pace in February 2009.  “Some closings were simply postponed by winter storms,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.  “Although sales have been higher than year-ago levels for eight straight months and home prices are much more stable compared to the past few years, the housing recovery is fragile at the moment.”  Housing inventories at the end of February rose 9.5 percent to 3.59 million existing homes for sale, which represents an 8.6-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 7.8-month supply in January.  Unsold inventory is 5.5 percent below a year ago.  “The key test for a durable recovery comes in the next few months as the tax credit deadline approaches,” Yun said.  The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $165,100 in February, 1.8 percent below February 2009.  Distressed homes, generally sold at discount, accounted for 35 percent of sales.

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