Existing Home Sales Fall to Lowest Level in Nearly a Year
The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales of previously owned homes dropped 4.3 percent last month, the third monthly fall in a row, to an annual rate of 4.90 million units.
That was the lowest annual rate since December 2012, and well below the median forecast in a Reuters poll of a 5.03 million unit pace.
"It is a clear loss in momentum for home sales," NAR economist Lawrence Yun told reporters.
Mortgage interest rates have risen sharply since May on expectations the Federal Reserve would start winding down a bond-buying economic stimulus program. The Fed announced Wednesday it would start tapering its monthly bond purchases next month.
Yun said the rise in mortgage rates, coupled with fast-rising prices, had made homebuying less affordable for many Americans.
The data carried a hint, however, that home price gains may be cooling off. The median price nationwide rose 9.4 percent in November from the same month in 2012 to $196,300. It was the first time in a year that prices didn't rise at a double-digit pace.
Yun said the NAR was "very concerned" about plans by the Federal Housing Finance Agency to reduce the maximum size of mortgages which can be bought by taxpayer-owned finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He said this could further impede the housing market's recovery.
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