Sales of existing U.S. homes fell
in March after a huge gain the previous month, held back partly by a sharp
slowdown among the most expensive properties.
The National Association of
Realtors said Monday home sales fell 4.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate
of 5.21 million, down from 5.48 million in February. The drop followed an 11.2%
gain the previous month, the largest in more than three years.
Home sales are struggling to
rebound after slumping in the second half of last year, when a jump in mortgage
rates to nearly 5% discouraged many would-be buyers. Spring buying is so far
running behind last year’s healthy gains: Sales were 5.4% below where they were
a year earlier.
Most analysts expect sales to rebound in the coming months. Borrowing costs have since fallen back to an average of 4.2% on a 30-year fixed mortgage. And solid hiring is pushing employers to pay higher wages, making it easier for more Americans to afford a home purchase.
Applications for mortgages to purchase homes have been running at a healthy pace in recent months, evidence that final sales should pick up in the coming months. Demand remains strong, with homes on the market for an average of 36 days in March, down from 44 in February.
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