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Sales of existing homes drop 2.7%

The August rate was a decline from July, but it's higher than what it was a year earlier. Last month's median price of $177,700 was mostly unchanged from July.

September 25, 2009|Peter Y. Hong

Sales of existing homes nationwide fell slightly last month from July's levels but were higher than the same month a year ago, an industry group reported Thursday.

The median price for U.S. resale homes in August was $177,700, little changed from July's $178,400 median but down 12.5% from August 2008, the National Assn. of Realtors said.

It's not unusual for home sales to decline slightly from July to August -- that also happened during the previous three years. August sales fell 2.7% from July to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 5.1 million units. Last month's sales were 3.4% above the 4.93-million-unit pace of August 2008.

Home sales also showed signs of returning to a more normal mix of transactions. For the last year, home sales in many areas were dominated by sales of foreclosures to investors and first-time buyers.

First-time home buyers accounted for 30% of sales last month, the Realtors group said. In March, first-time buyers constituted 53% of purchasers, the group said, and distressed sales made up a slight majority of purchases that month.

Last month, distressed property sales accounted for 31% of purchases, the association said, matching July's levels.

The industry group's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said he expects foreclosures to rise in the next 12 months. The housing market is "showing some momentum," but the August sales decline shows "we can't take a housing rebound for granted."

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peter.hong@latimes.com

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