Existing Home Sales Rebound, Still Well Below Recent Peak

existing home sales
Matt York/AP
By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON -- U.S. home resales rose in April and the supply of properties on the market increased, suggesting the housing market was regaining its footing.

The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales increased 1.3 percent to an annual rate of 4.65 million units, marking the second increase in sales in nine months.

While that was a bit less than the 4.68-million unit pace that economists had expected, it was a hopeful sign for a sector that stumbled in the second half of 2013, under the weight of higher mortgage rates and house prices.

Sales are still down 15 percent from a peak of 5.38 million units hit in July. Compared to April last year, sales were down 6.8 percent.

Expensive home loans and rising home prices have sidelined first-time buyers from the market. Investors are stepping back.

Though an usually cold winter depressed activity, a dearth of homes for sale also stymied demand. Sales are expected to gradually trend higher for the rest of 2014 as job growth and the overall economy accelerate.

And there is reason to be optimistic. The inventory of unsold homes on the market increased 6.5 percent from a year-ago and the median home price increased at its slowest pace since March 2012.

The months' supply increased to 5.9 months, the highest since August 2012, from 5.1 months in March. Six months' supply is normally considered as a healthy balance between supply and demand.

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