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Existing-home sales slid further last month

Existing-home sales fell again in August, according to the National Association of Realtors, down 2.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.91 million units. That compares with an upwardly revised pace of 5.02 million in July, and is 10.7 percent lower than the 5.5 million-unit pace in August 2007.

“The difficulty in obtaining a mortgage increased over past couple months, making it more challenging for creditworthy borrowers to find financing,” said NAR president Richard Gaylord. “Our hope is that overly tight lending criteria can be loosened with reasonable standards and credit so that sales activity can catch up with demand.”

The national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 6.48 percent in August from 6.43 percent in July; the rate was 6.57 percent in August 2007. However, last week the 30-year fixed had dropped to 5.78 percent.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, credited government action for the drop in interest rates. He explained, “August sales reflect higher interest rates before the government takeover of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and the sudden drop in mortgage interest rates over the past couple weeks is improving housing affordability.”

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $203,100 in August, down 9.5 percent from a year ago when the median was $224,400.

Total housing inventory at the end of August fell 7.0 percent to 4.26 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.4-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a revised 10.9-month supply in July.

Single-family home sales slipped 1.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.35 million in August from an upwardly revised pace of 4.41 million in July, but are 9.6 percent below the 4.81 million-unit level a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $201,900 in August, down 9.7 percent from August 2007.

Existing condominium and co-op sales dropped 8.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 560,000 units in August from an upwardly revised level of 610,000 in July, and are 19.0 percent below the 691,000-unit pace in August 2007. The median existing condo price4 was $212,600 in August, which is 7.2 percent below a year ago.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 0.9 percent in August to a pace of 1.14 million but are 12.3 percent below August 2007. The median price in the Midwest was $168,000, down 5.6 percent from a year ago.