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Home resales rise in March

Sales of previously owned U.S. homes jumped 6.8% in March, a bright spot for the struggling housing market after three consecutive months of decline.

The increase reported Thursday by the National Assn. of Realtors in Washington appeared to indicate the arrival of the spring surge that real estate agents have been counting on to buoy sales this year. But it remains to be seen whether the momentum can be sustained after a federal tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for some current homeowners expires next week.

Sales rose 6.6% in the West.

“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.”

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The data are estimates based on activity on the Realtors group’s proprietary multiple listing service and are reported by giving an annual sales pace adjusted each month to take into account seasonal variations.

The March sales pace reached an annual rate of 5.35 million homes, up from 5.01 million in February and 16.1% above the 4.61-million-unit pace in March 2009.

Sales rose 7.1% in the South, 7.2% in the Midwest and 6% in the Northeast on a month-over-month basis.

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

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alejandro.lazo@latimes.com


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