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First Quarter State Existing-Home Sales Ease

May 15, 2006

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WASHINGTON – Existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, remained historically high in the first quarter but have experienced a downtrend since hitting a record in the third quarter of last year. Even so, 26 states showed increases in sales activity from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The latest report on total existing-home sales shows that the seasonally adjusted annual rate* was 6.80 million units in the first quarter, down 2.1 percent from the 6.94 million-unit level in the first quarter of 2005.

The biggest increase was in New Mexico, where existing-home sales rose 26.2 percent from the first quarter of 2005. Louisiana’s first-quarter resale pace rose 22.9 percent from a year earlier, while Montana experienced the third strongest gain, up 17.5 percent. Six other states recorded double-digit sales increases from a year ago. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia experienced declines. Complete data for three states was not available.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said rising interest rates have dampened sales. “A steady rise in mortgage interest rates has slowed home sales in higher cost areas, yet job growth in some moderately priced markets is boosting sales in other areas,” he said. “The net effect is a modest decline in home sales for the nation as a whole, but sales remain historically strong and are providing a solid underlying base for the overall economy.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage was 6.24 percent in the first quarter, up from 6.22 percent in the fourth quarter; it was 5.76 percent in the first quarter of 2005.

NAR President Thomas M. Stevens from Vienna, Va., said the sales pattern is expected to level out. “We project home sales may soften a little further before picking up in the fourth quarter, but we’re not looking for any significant changes in the market moving forward,” said Stevens, senior vice president of NRT Inc. “This should provide stability in the market so that buyers and sellers will be on a fairly level playing field in most of the country.”

Regionally, the strongest performance was in the South, which reported an increase of 2.3 percent to an existing-home sales pace of 2.71 million units in the first quarter in comparison with a year ago. After Louisiana, the strongest increase in the South was in Mississippi, up 17.3 percent from the first quarter of 2005; resales in North Carolina rose 17.0 percent; Arkansas and Tennessee also posted double-digit sales increases.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales rose 1.1 percent to a 1.56 million-unit annual sales level from the first quarter of 2005. Indiana led the region, up 10.4 percent from a year earlier, followed by Iowa, up 9.0 percent, and Ohio, with an increase of 6.2 percent.

The Northeast recorded an existing-home sales pace of 1.12 million units in the first quarter, down 2.9 percent from a year earlier. Sales activity in Maine rose 4.6 percent from the first quarter of 2005, Rhode Island increased 2.0 percent and New York sales declined 2.2 percent.

In the West, the existing-home sales level of 1.41 million units was 12.4 percent below the first quarter of 2005. After New Mexico and Montana, the best performance the region was in Utah where existing-home sales rose 12.7 percent from a year earlier; Hawaii sales increased 6.3 percent while Alaska rose 5.9 percent.

Source: The National Association of Realtors



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