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Home Sales Falter After 4-month Gain

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Sales of previously owned homes fell unexpectedly last month, an industry group reported Thursday, showing that a budding recovery in the housing market remains weak and faltering.

A four-month streak of improvements in existing home sales gave way to a seasonally adjusted 2.7 percent dip in August, according to the National Association of Realtors, as prospective buyers of condos and single-family homes pulled back across the Northeast, the South and the Midwest.

Despite the monthly decline, sales in August were still 3.4 percent higher than a year earlier, when the collapse of the housing market was rapidly dragging down the economy. And they marked the second-highest sales figures of the year.

Median home prices across the country dipped by nearly $4,000 in August, to $177,700, and were down 12.5 percent from a year earlier, and inventories of for-sale homes dropped to a supply that would take 8.5 months to burn through, the lowest levels all year.

Home sales have been edging higher over the past few months as lower prices, affordable mortgage rates and a tax credit for first-time home buyers have drawn buyers back to open houses. On Thursday, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors’ group, attributed the slide in August to an especially strong performance a month earlier.

“Some of the giveback in closed sales appears to result from rising numbers of contracts entering the system, with some fallouts and a backlog contributing to a longer closing process, but the decline demonstrates we can’t take a housing rebound for granted,†he said in a statement.

Excellent spin.

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