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Existing Home Sales Rise; Prices Continue to Fall

Sales of existing homes rose in February, but prices suffered a record drop from levels one year ago, according to a realtors association.

The National Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes rose in February for the first time since July. The 2.9 percent increase in sales was the biggest in a year. Economists had expected a small decline.

Prices continued to drop in the biggest decline on record, dating back to 1968. The association said median home prices fell 8.2 percent to $195,900.


Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the realtors group, said prices in some formerly hot markets in California and Florida are seeing significant price declines as sellers try to attract buyers.

Analysts cautioned against reading too much into the one-month rise in sales. Many economists predict that the steep slump in housing will not bottom out until later this year, after prices fall farther and allow huge levels of unsold inventories to be reduced.

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

By region of the country, sales surged by 11.3 percent in the Northeast and were up 2.5 percent in the Midwest and 2.1 percent in the South. The only region of the country to see a decline in sales was the West, which dropped by 1.1 percent.

Sales figures on new homes are due out later this week by the Commerce Department.


From NPR and wire reports

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