Existing home sales see slight February dip

March 23, 2010 12:48PM

Sales of existing U.S. homes dropped 0.6 percent in February, to an annual rate of 5.02 million units, though activity picked up 2.4 percent in the Northeast to 840,000, according to the latest report from the National Association of Realtors. February’s nationwide rate was 7 percent higher than in February 2009 — the eighth month in a row of improved year-over-year sales numbers — which indicates a “fragile” recovery, according to Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. Meanwhile, the country’s inventory of existing homes for sale rose 9.5 percent to 3.59 million, an 8.6-month supply at the current sales rate. The median sales price on those homes was $165,100 during the month, a 1.8 percent drop from February 2009. First-time homebuyers accounted for 42 percent of all purchases, up from 40 percent in January, while investors bought 19 percent of the homes sold during the month. “The key test for a durable recovery comes in the next few months as the tax credit deadline approaches,” Yun said. “If we see a surge in homebuying comparable to last fall in the months leading up to the original tax credit deadline, then enough inventory should be absorbed to ensure a broad home price stabilization.” TRD