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FEBRUARY HOME SALES STRONG AS BUYERS RESPOND TO LOW RATES

 WASHINGTON, March 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Sales of previously owned homes rose in February from one year earlier, as buyers continued to respond to falling mortgage rates and improving economic conditions, according to the National Association of Realtors.
 The association recorded a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate(A) of 3.55 million existing single-family homes in February, up 2.6 percent from February 1992, when the resale rate was 3.46 million units.
 Sales rose on a year-to-year basis despite poor weather conditions in many sections of the nation. According to NAR President William S. Chee, the steady activity is a promising sign. "We are seeing the impact of improved consumer confidence. More and more people are becoming convinced that the economic recovery is here to stay," Chee said. "There is substantial pent-up demand to be filled, due to consumer reluctance to enter the market during the recession."
 Although the bulk of purchases are being made by first-time buyers, the trade-up market also is busy, Chee noted. "With today's low rates, people are realizing they can buy a bigger home, using a bigger loan, without seeing an increase in their mortgage payments," he said.
 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 7.68 percent in February, down from 8.00 percent the previous month, and down from 8.76 percent in February 1992.
 "We are starting to hear about shorter selling times, multiple offers and even listing shortages in some markets," Chee said.
 Last month's national median existing single-family home price was $104,200, which was 1.0 percent higher than one year earlier, when the price was $103,200. The median is the midpoint in the price range -- half the homes sold cost more, half cost less.
 Through February, 435,000 existing single-family homes had been sold nationwide, representing a 4.6 percent increase over the total for the first two months of 1992.
 All the regions except the West recorded year-to-year increases in home sales for February. In the Northeast, the resale pace of 550,000 units jumped 12.2 percent from February 1992. The median price for existing single-family homes in the Northeast was $136,900 last month, down 3.5 percent from one year earlier.
 According to NAR Chief Economist John A. Tuccillo, the Northeast's economy is starting to rebound. Many of the home sales in that region are occurring in the lower end of the price range, he noted. "Buyers are coming back. They feel the market has turned the corner," Tuccillo said. He predicted that activity would remain steady in the Northeast in the months ahead.
 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 960,000 units in February, which was up 2.1 percent from one year earlier. The median existing-home price in the Midwest was $84,700, up 3.9 percent from February 1992.
 The South posted a resale rate of 1.30 million units in February, up 2.4 percent from the February 1992 pace. The region's median price was $90,600 last month, down 0.4 percent from one year earlier.
 Weak economic conditions in California caused sales in the West to decline slightly. In that region, the resale rate was 740,000 units in February, 1.3 percent below that for February 1992. The median price in the West was $140,900 last month, down 4.9 percent from February 1992.
 Currently, NAR is predicting existing single-family home sales to total 3.721 million units this year, representing a 5.7 percent increase from the 1992 total. The median price for existing single- family homes is expected to be $106,100, rising 2.3 percent above the price for last year.
 Continued low rates and stable home prices will keep the housing market strong, Tuccillo noted. "We are looking for a very good year," he said.
 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- 3/25/93
 /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 -- DC003 -- 9397 03/25/93 08:47 EST
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Date:Mar 25, 1993
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