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JANUARY HOUSING MARKET CONTINUES TO RIDE WAVE OF CONSUMER OPTIMISM

 WASHINGTON, March 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Sales of previously owned homes rose sharply in January from one year earlier, as the housing market continued to ride a wave of consumer optimism, according to the National Association of Realtors.
 The association recorded a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate(A) of 3.78 million existing single-family homes in January, up 14.9 percent from January 1992, when the resale rate was 3.29 million units. The trend over the past four months shows the market heading for its strongest year since 1979.
 According to NAR President William S. Chee, homes sales have picked up notably in markets across the nation, due to growing consumer confidence. "More and more for sale' signs are going up," he said. "We're seeing people who want to sell, not just those who have to sell. The timing is good now for both sellers and buyers."
 Steady activity by first-time buyers has spurred an increase in purchases by those trading up to larger homes, Chee noted.
 Low mortgage rates are continuing to make home ownership very affordable. The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. reported that the national average commitment rate for 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgages was 8.00 percent in January, down from 8.21 percent the previous month, and down from 8.43 percent in January 1992.
 NAR is predicting that mortgage rates will keep declining, due to the Clinton administration's focus on lowering the national deficit and long-range economic growth measures. "President Clinton's attack on the deficit will yield lower interest rates, which will ensure the continued rally in the housing market," Chee said.
 Last month's national median existing single-family home price was $103,700, which was 1.6 percent higher than one year earlier, when the price was $102,100. The median is the midpoint in the price range -- half the homes sold cost more, half cost less. The year-to-year price increase reflects steady demand, Chee noted.
 The total number of existing single-family home sales in 1992 was revised to 3.520 million -- the highest yearly total since 1979, when 3.827 million homes were sold.
 All the regions recorded year-to-year increases in home sales for January. In the Northeast, the pace for January was 600,000 units, up an extraordinary 25.0 percent from January 1992. The median price for existing single-family homes in the Northeast was $134,400 last month, down 4.2 percent from one year earlier.
 According to NAR Chief Economist John A. Tuccillo, the Northeast's economy is starting to regain momentum. Much of the activity there is due to purchases at the lower end of the price range, he noted. "Buyers who were priced out a few years ago are finding they can afford to be in the market now," he said.
 An ample supply of affordable housing resulted in year-to-year sales increases for both the Midwest and South. The resale rate in the Midwest was 1.01 million units in January, which was up 11.0 percent from one year earlier. The median existing-home price in the Midwest was $82,600, up 3.8 percent from January 1992.
 The South posted a resale rate of 1.36 million units in January, up 15.3 percent from the January 1992 pace. The region's median price was $90,400 last month, up 1.3 percent from one year earlier.
 Despite lackluster economic conditions in California, home sales were strong in the West. The resale rate for that region was 810,000 units in January, 11.0 percent above that for January 1992. The median price in the West was $143,300 last month, down 4.2 percent from January 1992.
 According to Tuccillo, "the stage is set" for a very healthy year in the housing industry. "All the factors are in place -- low rates, stable home prices, and willing consumers," he said.
 Currently, NAR is predicting existing single-family home sales to total 3.692 million units this year, representing a 4.9 percent increase from the 1992 total. The median price for existing single-family homes is expected to be $106,900, rising 3.1 percent above the price for last year.
 The National Association of Realtors, "The Voice for Real Estate," is the nation's largest trade association, representing nearly 750,000 members involved in all aspects of the real estate industry.
 (A) The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume normally is higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather.
 -0- 3/1/93
 /CONTACT: Trisha Morris, 202-383-7560, Cheryl Spector, 202-383-1289, or Walter Molony, 202-383-1177, all of the National Association of Realtors/


CO: National Association of Realtors ST: District of Columbia IN: SU: ECO

DC -- DC004 -- 1218 03/01/93 08:46 EST
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Date:Mar 1, 1993
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