Existing home sales slip

WASHINGTON – April 23, 2009 – Existing-home sales eased in March but first-time buyers are responding to low mortgage interest rates and tax credits, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – declined 3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.57 million units in March from a downwardly revised level of 4.71 million in February, and were 7.1 percent lower than the 4.92 million-unit pace in March 2008.Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the market appears to be stabilizing with modest monthly ups and downs, and that first-time buyers are driving the market. “The share of lower priced home sales has trended up, indicating a return of many first-time buyers, which we also see in a parallel member survey,” he said. “Sales in the upper price ranges remain stalled because of higher interest rates on jumbo loans.” An NAR practitioner survey in March showed first-time buyers accounted for 53 percent of transactions, based largely on contracts offered before the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit became available.