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REAL ESTATE

New-home purchases fall, 2011 worst ever for sales

Fewer people bought new homes in December. The decline made 2011 the worst year for new-homes sales on records dating back nearly half a century.

The Commerce Department said Thursday new-home sales fell 2.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 307,000. The pace is less than half the 700,000 economists say must be sold in a healthy economy.

About 302,000 new homes were sold last year. That’s less than the 323,000 sold in 2010, making last year’s sales the worst on records dating back to 1963. And it coincides with a report last week that said 2011 was the weakest year for single-family home construction on record.

The median sales prices for new homes dropped in December to $210,300. Builders continued to slash price to stay competitive in the depressed market.

Still, sales of new homes rose in the final quarter of 2011, supporting other signs of a slow turnaround that began at the end of the year.

INTERNET

Google+ opens to teenagers

SAN FRANCISCO | Google on Thursday opened up Google+ to teenagers, just days after loosening the rules about using real names on the social network.

The age limit had previously been 18, but Bradley Horowitz, Google’s vice president for product management, announced users could now be as young as 13.

Facebook, the world’s leading social network with more than 800 million members, also has an age limit of 13.

Mr. Horowitz said Google+ is implementing several safety features aimed specifically at teens.

“With Google+, we want to help teens build meaningful connections online,” he wrote in a post on his Google+ account.

Google+ organizes online connections into circles such as friends and family and one of the safety features is a reminder to a teen whether they really want share a post publicly outside of their circles.

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