April 23, 2009

Home sales drop 3 percent in March

Existing-home sales fell by a seasonally adjusted 3 percent in March, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.

Sales of single-family homes, town homes, condominiums and co-ops declined to an annual rate of 4.57 million units compared with 4.71 million in February, the association said.

Sales dropped 7.1 percent from a year ago. In March 2008, the rate of sales was 4.92 million units.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said first-time buyers are driving the market.

The share of lower-priced home sales has trended up, indicating a return of many first-time buyers, he said, adding that "sales in the upper price ranges remain stalled' because of higher interest rates on jumbo loans.

By early summer we should be seeing positive impact on home sales from record-low mortgage interest rates, he said.

In March, the national median existing-home price was $175,200, a 12.4 percent drop from its position a year ago.

The housing inventory dropped 1.6 percent to 3.74 million homes on the market, a 9.8-month supply at the current rate of sales. In February, the inventory of homes on the market represented a 9.7-month supply.