Prices of existing homes fell in 80% of the nation's metropolitan markets in the third quarter as distressed sales -- foreclosures and short sales -- accounted for nearly a third of all deals, a national group said Tuesday.
The U.S. median sale price for an existing single-family home was $177,900, an 11.2% drop from the same period a year earlier, according to the National Assn. of Realtors in Washington. Distressed sales continued to weigh on prices despite a popular tax credit fueling the volume of deals. Still, the median was higher than in the second quarter of this year, when it was $174,200.
Last week, President Obama signed into law an extension of the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers and a new $6,500 credit for homeowners looking to purchase a new residence.
During the third quarter, 123 of 153 metropolitan areas reported lower median sale prices for existing single-family homes in comparison with the third quarter of 2008, while 30 areas had price gains.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the Realtors group, said shrinking inventories of homes helped to moderate price declines this year, but many economists worry that another wave of foreclosures could hit the market and push prices down again.
Median prices ranged from $61,400 in the Saginaw-Saginaw Township North area of Michigan to $566,000 in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area of California. No. 2 was San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont at $538,100, followed by the Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine area at $498,800.
The third-quarter median sale price in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metro area fell 11.5% to $345,600 from the year-earlier period but rose 11.1% from $311,100 in the second quarter.
Total existing-home sales, including single-family homes and condos, increased 11.4% in the third quarter to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.3 million units from 4.76 million units in the second quarter, and are now 5.9% above the 5.01-million-unit pace in the third quarter of 2008.