Friday, April 20, 2012

The housing market continued to struggle in March, despite low home prices and record low interest rates. Existing-home sales decreased 2.6% in March from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.48 million, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.

Not all of the news was bad, however. Even with the monthly decline, the first three months of 2012 were the strongest start to the year for existing-home sales since 2007. And March’s sales were 5.2% above the same month last year.

The inventory of previously owned homes listed for sale, meanwhile, increased to 2.37 million at the end of February. That represented a 6.3-month supply at the current sales pace, a pace considered healthy by economists.

The median sales price in March was $163,800, up 2.5% from $159,800 a year earlier. One reason for the price increase, the Realtors group said, is a declining share of foreclosures and other distressed properties. Those made up 29% of March’s sales, down from 40% a year earlier, according to a monthly survey taken by the Realtors’ group.

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