Sales of existing homes fell by 3 percent in March from February, the National Association of Realtors announced today. They fell by 7.1 percent compared with March 2008. On a seasonally adjusted basis, 4.57 million existing homes were sold in March, down from 4.71 million in February and 4.92 million in March 2008. NAR includes single-family, townhomes, condos and co-ops in the existing home sales it tracks.

The average median home price is $175,100 nationwide. The median price means that half of the homes for sale cost more than this and half cost less. That’s down 12.4 percent from last year at the same time.

Some other median home prices of interest:
* single family home – $174,900, down 11 percent from a year earlier
* condo – $177,600, down 18.7 percent from a year earlier

* $252,400 in the West, down 11 percent from March 2008
* $231,700 in the Northeast, down 18.4 percent from March 2008
* $146,900 in the South, down 12.2 percent
* $141,300 in the Midwest, down 6.1 percent

The first time home buyer incentives such as the $8,000 tax credit seem to be working, with 53 percent of all home sales coming from first time buyers in March. Although NAR points out that most of those sales began prior to the announcement of the tax credit.

“The housing market always heals from the bottom up, and with large numbers of first-time buyers entering the market it will become a little easier for sellers to trade up or down, according to their needs,” said Charles McMillan, NAR president, and a broker based in Dallas-Fort Worth.

“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,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Sales in the upper price ranges remain stalled because of higher interest rates on jumbo loans.”

But conventional mortgage rates continue to be at record lows – the March average was 5 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, according to Freddie Mac.

April 23, 2009