Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Existing Home Sales Decline Again

by Amy Lillard


Existing home sales dropped in March, yet another sign of a housing market spiraling downward and dragging the greater economy with it.

The 2 percent drop was the seventh decrease in eight months, according to the National Association of Realtors. The median price of a home also decreased to $200,700, a 7.7 percent drop from last year and the seventh consecutive year-over-year price drop.

In addition, the National Association of Realtors revealed a survey showing 18 percent of homes up for sale in March had negative equity. These homes, where the mortgage was larger than the value of the home, are either in foreclosure or in "short sale." In comparison, from 2002-2006 this amount of negative equity stayed around 3 percent.

Sales are falling as a result of increasing loan restrictions on the one hand, and the prospect of further price declines on the other. Defaults on subprime mortgage loans have led banks to tighten credit and borrowing rules, resulting in less people able to get mortgage loans. For those borrowers who can obtain loans, home values continue to decrease and savvy buyers are waiting until prices hit bottom.

The inventory of homes on the market keeps rising, causing prices to continue to drop. Unsold homes increased 1 percent in March to 4.06 million homes, representing a 9.9-month supply at the current sales pace. Rising foreclosures are pushing more homes on the market.

Existing-home sales make up around 85 percent of the U.S. housing market, and new-home sales make up the rest. Figures from the Commerce Department are expected later this week on sales of new homes, and a 13-year low is predicted. Decreasing overall sales are encouraging builders to stop construction and/or reduce prices. The amount of new homes initiated in March, 947,000, was the lowest in 17 years.

Different areas of the country are experiencing the drop in home sales differently. For March, sales were down 6.5 percent in the Midwest and 3.5 percent in the South, but they increased by 2.2 percent in both the Northeast and the West.

Washington Post Article: Existing home sales fall in March

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