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More Mixed Signals on Housing


Sales of existing homes jumped more than 9% in September, exceeding forecasts even as home prices continued to tumble. So say the latest figures from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

September sales reached an annual rate of 5.57 million in September, a 9.4% gain versus August. The sales gains were evenly split between home sales (up 9.4%) and condo sales (up 9.7%) to 680,000 annually.

However, median home prices continued their long decline. The median price versus the previous month was down 1.4% in September to $174,900. It was the slowest pace of decline this year. The year-over-year slide has begun to moderate, too, NAR says. Prices have been falling by double digit amounts recently. September prices were off 8.5% versus September 2008.

Distressed home sales accounted for 29% of the September total, down from 50% levels earlier in the year, NAR reported, and two points lower than September.

However, September sales may be the year's peak, cautioned NAR, because the federal first-time buyer credit is scheduled to expire soon.

The figures for existing home sales were in some contrast to the new home sales figures released earlier in the week, which were weaker than expected. Building permits, an indicator of future construction activity, declined 1.2%.

Read the full news release here.