- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nearly 90 percent of metropolitan areas nationwide reported a decrease in the price of single-family homes during the start of 2009, the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday.

The group said the median price in 134 of 152 metropolitan areas in the first quarter was $169,000 — 13.8 percent less than during to the same period in 2008.

First-time buyers taking advantage of good deals and low mortgage rates bought half of all homes sold in the quarter.

Roughly 455,000 first-time buyers bought a home in the quarter, said Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist.

Foreclosures and other distressed sales accounted for roughly 50 percent of the quarterly sales. Such deals were about 20 percent cheaper than those made under normal conditions and drove down the $169,000 median price.

“Traditional homes in good condition have held their value much better so owners shouldn’t be overly concerned about median prices,” said Charles McMillan, group president and a Coldwell Banker broker. “Most sellers can expect a good return if they’ve been in their home for a normal period of home-ownership and havent excessively tapped their equity.

The group said 4.59 million homes and condominiums were sold in the quarter, down 3.2 percent from the 4.74 million sold in the previous quarter and 6.8 percent below the 4.93 million sold in the first quarter of 2008.

Still, recent increases in contracts, buyer traffic and inquiries about the $8,000 federal tax credit indicate sales will improve in the second half of this year, Mr. Yun said.

Most experts say the U.S. economy has shown recent signs of recovery since falling into a recession in December 2007 and should recover by the end 2009.

The rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was at 5.06 percent in the first quarter, compared to 5.86 percent in the fourth quarter and 5.88 percent in the first quarter of 2008.

The states that showed the highest increases in sales compared to last year were Nevada, up 116.8 percent; California, at 80.6 percent; and Arizona, at 50.2 percent.

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