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Existing-home prices rise, sales fall in tight market

June 22, 2012|By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times

Sales of existing homes slid 1.5% in May compared with April but were up substantially from a year earlier, and property prices climbed, the National Assn. of Realtors said.

Last month, resales slipped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.55 million, down from 4.62 million in April but up 9.6% from May 2011, the group said.

The median price soared to $182,600, up 7.9% from a year earlier, marking the third consecutive month with a year-over-year gain — the first trifecta since 2006. Credit Suisse analysts called the firming prices — now at the highest level since June 2010 — "the silver lining" of the report.

Sales of single-family homes were 1% lower than in April but 10.4% higher than in May 2011. The price for such properties jumped to $182,900, up 7.7% from a year earlier.

The report, which also factors in town homes, condominiums and co-ops, attributed the month-over-month slip in sales to a tight supply of properties rather than to softening demand. The inventory of homes listed for sale is 20.4% smaller than a year earlier, according to the Realtors group.

Heavily discounted foreclosures and short sales made up a substantial but shrinking portion of the home buys — 25% in May, down from 31% a year earlier. First-time buyers, however, made up one-third of the pool — a smaller portion than before.

"The recovery is occurring despite excessively tight credit conditions and higher down-payment requirements, which are negating the impact of record-high affordability conditions," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the Realtors group.

tiffany.hsu@latimes.com

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