- THE MAGAZINE
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sales of U.S. existing homes fell 0.3 percent in May, a national real estate trade association said on Tuesday, but the sales pace was still the fourth-highest on record.
Sales of previously owned homes, the largest category of home sales, slid to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.75 million last month from a downwardly revised 5.77 million in April, the National Association of Realtors said.
May sales still beat the expectations of analysts, who had forecast a rate of 5.66 million. The median home sales price rose to a record $154,600 in May, the association said.
"The beat goes on. The housing sector continues to defy all odds," NAR chief economist David Lereah said.
Inventories fell to 2.18 million homes available for sale, or a 4.5 months' supply at the current sales pace.
Regionally, the sales pace slid 3.9 percent in the South, the region of the greatest sales activity, but rose 4.5 percent in the West, the next-busiest section of the country. Sales rose 1.6 percent in the Midwest but dropped 2.9 percent in the Northeast.
Sales of existing homes rose 7 percent in April. Sales set a record annual rate of 6.05 million in January; the second- and third-highest rates on record were in February and April.
Housing activity has defied expectations of a slowdown in 2002, boosted by low mortgage interest rates, strong demand, and consumer confidence undented by the economic downturn that began in March 2001. Three years of poor stock market performance have prompted many Americans to view their homes as their best investments.