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NAR courts international home buyers

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) joined with Salon Immobiliario de Madrid, one of Europe’s largest home and resort expos, with the hopes of attracting more international buyers to United States properties.

The NAR said the move comes as the falling value of the U.S. dollar makes second-home buying more attractive to international customers. According to the trade group, more than 100,000 homes in the United States are sold to foreign buyers per year.

“Current valuations of the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies have made U.S. property one of the world’s great bargains, and the prestige of owning U.S. property remains high,” the group said in a statement.

According to the NAR, a 2007 study showed that 18 percent of realtors had “at least one client” involved in an international transaction. In Florida, that number jumps to 65 percent.

This is the fifth year the association has participated in the international second-homes exposition, which concluded on April 12.

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Commerce Department: sales fell for building materials, furnishings

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Retail sales in March rose 0.2 percent month-over-month, buoyed by strong sales at gas stations. But building materials and other related markets saw a drop in sales last month.

According to the Commerce Department report, sales of building materials fell 1.6 percent, and sales of home furnishings fell 0.3 percent. General retail stores, like Wal-Mart and Target, saw a combined 0.6 decline in March.

But year-over-year, overall retail sales increased 2 percent, again buoyed by higher gas prices. Building materials and home furnishings took the biggest hit when compared with last year, falling 6.9 percent and 7.1 percent respectively.

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Housing starts fall from February

BY HBSDEALER Staff

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development, housing starts for the month of March fell 11.9 percent to 947,000 from a revised February estimate of 1.075 million units. That figure is 36.5 percent below the 1.491 million housing starts recorded in the same period last year.

Single-family housing starts in March were at a rate of 680,000. This is 5.7 percent below the February figure of 721,000.

Issuance of building permits fell 5.8 percent in March to a rate of 927,000. Year-over-year, the rate of building permit authorizations fell 40.9 percent.

Still, builder confidence remained unchanged this month, according to the National Association of Home Builders. The trade group reported a builders confidence index at 20, the same as in March.

“With the traditional home buying season now well underway, we have not seen the bump in sales activity that we normally would this time of year,” said Sandy Dunn, NAHB president. “At this point, all eyes are on Congress and its efforts to craft meaningful legislation to help support the housing market and stabilize our nation’s economy before it heads deeper into recession.”

The index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as either “good,” “fair” or “poor.” Any number under 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as poor than good.

Regionally, the index’s results were mixed in April, with a one-point gain to 22 registered in the Northeast, a one-point decline to 15 registered in the Midwest, a two-point decline to 24 posted for the South and a two-point gain to 17 posted for the West.

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