Make us your home page
Instagram

Existing home sales remain down nationally

WASHINGTON — Fewer people purchased previously occupied homes in April, a troubling sign that the weak housing market remains a drag on the economy.

Sales fell 0.8 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.05 million units, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. That's far below the 6 million homes a year that economists say represents a healthy market.

In Tampa Bay, sales of existing homes dropped last month from 2,717 to 2,590, a 4.7 percent decline from April 2010, according to Florida Realtors. The median price of existing homes fell nearly 11 percent from $136,200 to $121,400 in the same period. The median price has risen for four consecutive months, however, going from $110,000 in January to $121,400 in April.

Purchases made by first-time home buyers nationwide did increase, but not nearly enough to signal a housing recovery is on the way. First-time buyers are critical because they typically improve their properties and invest in their communities, a combination that helps home values rise.

Foreclosures, on the other hand, force prices down. They represented more than a third of all sales in April and more are expected in the months ahead.

Economists say it could be years before the housing market fully recovers.

A growing problem is that some sales that are under contract are falling apart. A separate survey from the trade group found 11 percent of Realtors said a contract was canceled because an appraisal came in below the negotiated price. And 14 percent said a contract was renegotiated to a lower price because of a low appraisal.

The median U.S. sales price in April was $163,700, down 5 percent from the same month a year ago. The median price of a new home is now nearly 31 percent higher than the median price for a previously occupied home — or twice the normal markup.

The gap is largely because of the flood of foreclosures or short sales — when the lender accepts less than what is owed on the mortgage. Those sales are forcing down prices.

Sales of homes at risk of foreclosure fell in April. But they still made up 37 percent of all purchases. And a large number of pending foreclosures are backlogged in the courts or held up by state and federal investigations into troubled foreclosure practices by lenders.

Another problem for the housing market is the glut of unsold homes. In April, the supply rose to nearly 3.9 million. At last month's sales pace, it would take more than nine months to clear those homes. Analysts say a healthy supply can be cleared in six months.

The increase in unsold inventory "should continue to weigh on prices," said Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak + Co.

The situation is much worse when taking into account the "shadow inventory" of homes, economists say. These are homes that are in the early stages of the foreclosure process but, because of backlogged courts or the government probes, have not hit the market for resale.

.fast facts

Job market shows life

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell sharply for the second straight week, suggesting the job market is slowly recovering. Applications for benefits dropped 29,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 409,000, the Labor Department said. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose slightly to 439,000. It was the sixth straight increase.

Economic roundup, 5B

.fast facts

Economic roundup

Here's a summary of other economic reports released Thursday:

• The Conference Board, a private research group, said Thursday that its index of leading economic indicators dropped 0.3 percent in April, the first decline since June 2010. Last month's spike in the number of people filing for unemployment assistance and a troubled housing market were factors. In April, only four of the measures the Conference Board uses to calculate the index increased. Six declined.

• Consumer confidence fell last week to the lowest level in nine months as fuel costs pinched household budgets. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell to minus 49.4 in the period ending May 15, the worst since August, from the prior week's minus 46.9. The index can range from 100, indicating everyone in the survey had a positive response to all components, to minus 100, signaling all views were negative.

Existing home sales remain down nationally 05/19/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 19, 2011 9:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Unexpected weak quarter at MarineMax slashes boating retailer shares by 20 percent

    Business

    CLEARWATER — Just then you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a boating business leader issued a small craft warning.

    Bill McGill Jr., CEO of Clearwater's MarineMax, the country's biggest recreational boat retailer. [Courtesy of MarineMax]
  2. CapTrust moving headquarters to downtown Park Tower

    Corporate

    TAMPA — CAPTRUST Advisors, a Raleigh, N.C.-based investment consulting firm, is moving its Tampa offices into Park Tower. CapTrust's new space will be 10,500 square feet — the entirety of the 18th floor of the downtown building, which is scheduled to undergo a multi-million-dollar renovation by 2018.

    CAPTRUST Advisors' Tampa location is moving into Park Tower. Pictured is the current CapTrust location at 102 W. Whiting St. | [Times file photo]
  3. Good news: Tampa Bay no longer a major foreclosure capital of the country

    Real Estate

    Once in the top five nationally for foreclosure filings, the Tampa Bay area no longer makes even the top 25.

    A few short years ago, Tampa Bay was a national hub for foreclosures. Not any more. [Getty Images/iStockphoto]
  4. Tampa-based start-up takes on Airbnb by promoting inclusion, diversity

    Tourism

    NEW TAMPA — Last May, Rohan Gilkes attempted to book a property in Idaho on the home-sharing platform Airbnb. After two failed attempts, the African-American entrepreneur asked a white friend to try, and she was "instantly" approved for the same property and dates.

    Rohan Gilkes poses for a portrait at his home and business headquarters in Tampa. 

Innclusive, a Tampa-based start-up, is a home-sharing platform that focuses on providing a positive traveling experience for minorities. Rohan Gilkes, the founder, said he created the organization after several negative experiences with Airbnb.
[CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]

  5. McMansions, state sewage order on tap at St. Petersburg City Council

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council is set Thursday to vote on two major issues: controversial zoning changes aimed at curbing big McMansion-style homes and a consent order with the state that will require St. Petersburg to fix its ailing sewage system.

    Two big, blocky homes on the 2300 block of Dartmouth, Ave N under construction in April. Several new homes under construction.
in St. Petersburg's Historic Kenwood Neighborhood are too big, residents complain. The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday is set to consider ordinances aimed at curbing the construction of big "McMansions." [LARA CERRI   |   Times]