Existing-home sales decline 3.8% in May

Existing-home sales fell 3.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.81 million in May, compared with a downwardly revised 5 million in April, according to statistics released today by the National Association of Realtors.

“Spiking gasoline prices along with widespread severe weather hurt house shopping in April, leading to soft figures for actual closings in May,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.

Compared with the 5.68 million pace of May 2010, which benefited from a surge of sales to beat a deadline for the home buyer tax credit, the current reading is down 15.3%.

“Current housing market activity indicates a very slow pace of broader economic activity, but recent reversals in oil prices are likely to mitigate the impact going forward," Yun said. "The pace of sales activity in the second half of the year is expected to be stronger than the first half, and will be much stronger than the second half of last year.” 

Meanwhile, the median existing-home price for all housing types in May was $166,500, down 4.6% from May 2010. Distressed homes accounted for 31% of sales in May, down from 37% in April.

Total housing inventory at the end of May fell 1.0% to 3.72 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.3-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 9-month supply in April. 

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