Existing US home sales fall 9.6% in February

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Monday, March 21, 2011

House in foreclosure

Sales of existing homes in the U.S. fell 9.6% in February, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said today, in a sign that the U.S. housing market is still depressed. The figure was worse than the 3.9% decline anticipated by the economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires and questions whether the U.S. housing market is beginning to recover or will continue to fall.

Cquote1.svg We have an uneven, choppy recovery. Hopefully it is a recovery ... Cquote2.svg

Lawrence Yun, NAR

A combination of foreclosures and short sales, where the mortgage holder sells the house for less than owed on the mortgage, accounted for almost 40% of the sales.

Millions of foreclosures have forced down home prices and the number of foreclosures are predicted to rise this year. The inventory of existing homes listed for sale rose 3.5% at the end of February, a 8.6-month supply at the current sales rate. As more homes are listed in the spring, the inventory of houses for sale will probably increase. A five or six month inventory is usually considered a healthy balance between supply and demand.

According to Moody's Analytics, another 3.6 million bank-owned homes and possible foreclosures will be added to the inventory by 2013, adding to the 6.7 million home foreclosures since 2006. Thus housing inventories will probably continue to remain high, delaying the point when prices stabilize. The median sales price in February fell 5.2%, down to a price level not seen since April 2002.

"We have an uneven, choppy recovery," said NAR's chief economist Lawrence Yun. "Hopefully it is a recovery that is taking place."


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