Existing-home sales show gains in February

Existing-home sales, including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 2.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million units in February from a pace of 4.89 million in January, according to the National Association of Realtors, a “notable gain” after several months of dropping numbers.

Sales remained 23.8 percent below the 6.60 million-unit level in February 2007.

"We're not expecting a notable gain in existing-home sales until the second half of this year, but the improvement is another sign that the market is stabilizing," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 11.3 percent to an annual pace of 890,000, but are 26.4 percent below February 2007. In the Midwest, sales rose 2.5 percent to a level of 1.24 million, but are 19.5 percent below a year ago. In the South, sales increased 2.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.99 million, a 22 percent decline from February 2007. And in the West, sales slipped 1.1 percent to an annual rate of 920,000, 29.2 percent below a year ago.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $195,900 in February, down 8.2 percent from a year earlier when the median was $213,500.

Half of the metro areas in the United States experienced price increases, with healthy gains in markets like Oklahoma City and Trenton, N.J. In other areas, such as Sacramento, a rapid price decline has induced buyers to come into the market, and sales are now rising, Yun said.

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