Median Home Prices See Steep Drop

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sales of existing homes fell in March while the median home price declined, compared with the price a year ago, as a severe slump in housing showed no signs of abating.

The National Association of Realtors said that sales of existing single-family homes and condominiums dropped by 2 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.93 million units.

The median price of a home sold last month dropped to $200,700, a decline of 7.7 percent from the median price a year ago. That was the second-biggest year-over-year price decline on records dating back to 1999.

The March decline, which was in line with expectations, followed a 2.9 percent increase in sales in February. The February rise, which followed six straight monthly declines, had raised hopes that the steep housing correction could be hitting bottom.

However, many private analysts said they do not expect a rebound for a number of months, given the problems weighing on housing from a severe glut of unsold homes to tighter credit standards for prospective buyers and a rising tide of mortgage foreclosures.

Sales were down 19.3 percent compared with a year ago, reflecting the depth of the housing bust, which is coming after sales set records for five consecutive years.

For March, sales were down 6.5 percent in the Midwest and 3.5 percent in the South but increased by 2.2 percent in the Northeast and 2.2 percent in the West.

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