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Real Estate: Second Quarter Sales Rise, Prices Fall

Existing-home sales in the second quarter showed healthy gains from the first quarter in the vast majority of states, according to the latest survey by the National Association of Realtors. However, prices continued to fall in most markets.

Total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, rose 3.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.76 million units in the second quarter from 4.58 million units in the first quarter, but remain 2.9 percent below the 4.90 million-unit pace in the second quarter of 2008.

Thirty-nine states experienced sales increases from the first quarter, and nine states were higher than a year ago; the District of Columbia showed both quarterly and annual rises.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the sales gain appears to be sustainable.


“With low interest rates, lower home prices and a first-time buyer tax credit, we’ve been seeing healthy increases in home sales, which are a hopeful sign for the economy,– he said. “There have been sustained sales gains in Arizona, Nevada and Florida, as well as diverse areas such as Maryland, the District of Columbia and Nebraska. More recently, we’ve seen strong double-digit gains in Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Washington, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Maine, Vermont, Wisconsin, Indiana, South Dakota and Montana.”

Yun explained housing’s impact on the overall economy. “Given the need for
related goods and services, each home sale pumps an additional $63,000 into the economy — that’s how the housing engine traditionally pulls us out of recession. In addition, sales are drawing down inventory and that will help stabilize home values, which in turn will lessen foreclosure pressure and boost credit availability for other sectors of the economy.”

Lower Prices

During the second quarter, 129 out of 155 metropolitan statistical areas reported lower median existing single-family home prices in comparison with the second quarter of 2008, while 26 areas had price gains.

Distressed sales — foreclosures and short sales — accounted for 36 percent of transactions in the second quarter, which continued to weigh down median home prices because they typically are sold at a 15 to 20 percent discount; first-time buyers accounted for one-third of transactions. The national median existing single-family price was $174,100, which is 15.6 percent below the second quarter of 2008. The median is where half sold for more and half sold for less.

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