Despite falling prices, U.S. home sales continued to lag behind last year's levels, according to data released Wednesday by the National Assn. of Realtors.
The industry group's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, called the second-quarter sales figures, which are based on a survey of its members, "a hopeful sign for the economy" because sales were up compared with the first quarter.
Despite the quarter-to-quarter sales gain, existing homes are still selling at a pace below that of last year, which had been the worst year for home sales in nearly a decade.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate of single-family home resales was 4.76 million units, down 2.9% from the 4.9-million-unit pace in the second quarter of 2008. Actual home sales in 2008 totaled 4.913 million units.
Prices for previously owned single-family homes fell in 129 of 150 U.S. metropolitan areas compared with the same period a year ago, the Realtors group said. During the second quarter of 2008, prices had fallen in 115 of the 150 metro areas.
Those falling prices helped push sales up 3.8% in the second quarter of 2009 from the first. Last year, second-quarter sales slipped slightly (less than 1%) from the first quarter.
But this year's quarter-to-quarter sales increase has not been enough to stop the national decline in home sales. Last year's 4.9-million-unit sales total was down from the 5.65 million sales in 2007.