Existing home sales rose by 5.1 percent in February as compared with January, announced the National Association of Realtors this morning.

But they fell 4.6 percent from February 2008.

The median home price fell to $165,400, down from $195,800 a year earlier. NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, attributes this to home buyers paying lower prices for foreclosures and other distressed properties. He says the value of a traditional home in good condition (that’s not distressed) is not at risk of declining.

It’s possible that the recently announced first time home buyer tax credit has already helped the market. Much of the increase occurred in the second half of the month after the announcement of the $8,000 tax credit, says NAR President Charles McMillan.

Single family home sales rose 4.4 percent since January, but declined 3.8 percent from a year earlier.

Condominium and co-op sales rose 11.4 percent since January, but declined 13.1 percent from a year earlier.

March 23, 2009.