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October's existing-home sales decline

Following two consecutive months of increases, existing-home sales declined in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.43 million.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the 2.2% decline compared with September reflects an uneven recovery.

"A temporary foreclosure stoppage in some states is likely to have held back a number of completed sales," according to Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "Still, sales activity is clearly off the bottom and is attempting to settle into normal sustainable levels."

Yun predicted the seasonally adjusted annual rate to pass 5 million by spring of next year.

Total housing inventory at the end of October fell 3.4% to 3.86 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 10.6-month supply in September, according to the NAR.

More evidence that the expiration of tax buyer incentives affected sales can be found in first-time buyer statistics. First-time buyers purchased 32% of homes in October, unchanged from September, but down from 50% a year ago during the initial surge for the first-time buyer tax credit.

Other statistics from this morning's NAR existing-home sales report:

• Year to date there were 4.149 million existing-home sales, down 2.9% from last year at this time; • The national median price for an existing home was $170,500, down 0.9% from last year; and • Single-family home sales declined 2.0% to a rate of 3.89 million. October 2009 saw the rate at 5.23 million.

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