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Home sales show faint signs of improvement

The pace of sales of existing homes rises nationally for the third consecutive month but is still no better than a year ago.

July 24, 2009|Peter Y. Hong

Sales of existing homes rose in June for the third consecutive month nationally, lifting the spirits of Wall Street and some in the housing industry. But the pace of sales is still no better than a year earlier, which had been the worst year for home sales in a decade.

The National Assn. of Realtors reported the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of existing homes in June was up 3.6% over May. However those sales were still down by 0.2% from the same month last year.

The group's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said of the monthly sales gain, "We expect a gradual uptrend in sales to continue due to tax credit incentives and historically high affordability conditions."

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of home sales for June was 4.89 million units. The June median price of $181,800 was down 15% from June 2008.

Home sales tend to be strong in the spring and early summer. Last year's total of 4.9 million units was comparable to 1998, and 31% below the peak total of 7.1 million homes sold in 2005.

One indicator of possible stabilization is a clearing of excess supply.

The inventory of homes for sale was 3.82 million, or a 9.4-month supply. That was down substantially from the 4.49 million homes for sale in June 2008, an 11.1-month supply. A six-month supply is considered normal.

Housing analysts caution, however, that a likely influx of repossessed homes could swell inventory.

Repossessed homes and other distressed properties accounted for 31% of June sales, the Realtors group reported, about the same level as a year earlier.

The proportion of first-time home buyers also fell, to 29% of purchasers, down from about 40% a year earlier.

Nationwide, single-family home sales were slightly stronger than the market as a whole, showing a 0.2% increase from last year and a 2.4% improvement over May.

Condominium sales were down 3.1% from a year earlier, although up 14% over May.

Home sales in the West were stronger than in the nation as a whole, rising 12% compared with June 2008. The median sales price was down 25% from a year earlier, to $214,800.

The 4.7% decline in sales in the Northeast from a year earlier was the sharpest among the regions.


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