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Existing homes sales eke out gain

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Posted: 3 pm ET

Sales of existing homes rose slightly in April by 1.3 percent -- the first monthly increase this year -- but the sluggish housing recovery is still finding its footing.

In a positive sign for this year's sluggish housing market, more homes came on the market in April.

In a positive sign for this year's sluggish housing market, more homes came on the market in April.

The National Association of Realtors reports that the annual sales rate of 4.65 million units fell short of expectations; economists expected 4.68 million. Sales remain down, by 6.8 percent, from April 2013. The bright spot is an increase in available inventory of homes for sale.

"Some growth was inevitable after subpar housing activity in the first quarter," Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says. He expects sales to rise the rest of the year, but for total sales to decline compared to 2013.

More homes on the market

One of the biggest barriers for potential homebuyers has been the lack of affordable homes for sale. The NAR reports that at the end of last month, total housing inventory increased 16.8 percent to 2.29 million existing homes available for sale. Unsold inventory is 6.5 percent higher than a year ago.

Both mortgage rates and home prices have been trending higher over the past year, but at a slow pace, Yun noted. Median price for existing homes, including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, was $201,700 in April. That's 5.2 percent higher than a year earlier.

"We’ll continue to see a balancing act between housing inventory and price growth, which remains stronger than normal simply because there have not been enough sellers in many areas," said Yun. "More inventory and increased new-home construction will help to foster healthy market conditions."

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