U.S. sales of previously owned homes rise 6.8% in March


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Sales of previously owned U.S. homes jumped 6.8% in March, a national group said Thursday.

Real estate agents have been counting on a spring surge brought on by an expanded and extended federal tax credit for buyers. The March sales pace reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35-million units, up from 5.01 million in February and 16.1% above the 4.61-million-unit pace in March 2009, according to the National Assn. of Realtors in Washington.


Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the group, said the federal tax credit that was to expire at the end of this month had been a “resounding success.”

Whether home sales will hold up after the expiration remains a question in debate.

“I’m fairly sanguine, frankly,” said Michael D. Larson, a housing and interest-rate analyst with Weiss Research. “While the credit expires April 30, more forces are at work here. Home prices are now reasonable in many parts of the country, and financing costs remain low.”

The national median home price was $170,700 last month, up 0.4% from the same month the prior year, the Realtors group said.

Regionally, sales of previously owned homes rose 6.6% in the West, 7.1% in the South, 7.2% in the Midwest and 6% in the East.

-- Alejandro Lazo