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Slow thaw in housing

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Posted: 2 pm ET

Housing data this week suggest that a number of niggling factors besides the unusually cold winter weather are slowing down the market. Home resales and groundbreaking on new construction were both disappointing in March, although there are signs of life heading into spring.

Existing home sales slip

Will spring bring a housing thaw?

Will spring bring a housing thaw?

The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales in March, which account for contracts signed in January and February, dropped 0.2 percent to the lowest level since July 2012. Sales were down 7.5 percent from March of last year.

Existing-home sales have been hampered not only by the harsh weather, but also by lack of inventory and rising prices.

"There really should be stronger levels of home sales given our population growth," Lawrence Yun, chief economist at National Association of Realtors, said in a news release. "In contrast, price growth is rising faster than historical norms because of inventory shortages."

Yun added that he believes sales will pick up in the spring, helped by improved weather and only modestly rising mortgage rates.

Housing starts hobbled

Housing starts rose 2.8 percent in March, but that was less than expected, according to the Commerce Department. Single-family home starts increased 6 percent, while multifamily starts dropped 3.1 percent.

Permits for new construction declined 2.4 percent overall. Permits for multifamily buildings dropped 6.4 percent, while those for single-family homes rose 5 percent.

There are a number of factors slowing down housing starts, including continued labor shortages and rising costs of building materials.

Check out these five housing trends for spring.

Keep up with your wealth and mortgages and follow me on Twitter @JudyMartel.

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