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New, existing-home sales plummet in November

Sales of existing homes in the United States fell 8.6 percent in November to an annual rate of 4.49 million, from a 4.91 million rate in October, the National Association of Realtors reported. This was the biggest drop on record and an indication that the real estate slump and recession will extend into 2009.

In a separate report, the Commerce Department said new home sales fell 2.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 407,000 in November -- the lowest level in almost 18 years. This also represented a 35.3 percent decline in units sold compared to November 2007, while the median sales price has fallen 11.5 percent to $220,400 year over year.

The median price of an existing home sold dropped 13.2 percent from a year earlier to $181,300, the biggest decline since the NAR started keeping records in 1968 and probably the largest since the Great Depression, according to NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.

Yun also said that foreclosures and short sales accounted for 45 percent of last month’s existing home purchases. Regionally, purchases declined 12 percent in the Northeast, 10.9 percent in the South, 7.4 percent in the Midwest and 4.3 percent in the West. Prices also fell throughout the country, led by a decline of 25.5 percent in the West.

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