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Existing-Home Sales Continue Slide

Updated from 11:41 a.m. EDT

Whether your region heard a pop or a slow hiss, the housing market has deflated, and even the industry's top realtors' association is describing the current situation as a buyer's market.

Existing-home sales were down 1.3% in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.62 million units from 6.71 million in May, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. The results were slightly above economists' forecast of 6.60 million, according to Reuters estimates.

June's sales were down 8.9% year-on-year, and the median existing-home price hit $231,000 in June, up 0.9% on the year.

"The change in price performance is directly tied to housing inventories," David Lereah, the NAR's chief economist, said in a statement. "A year ago we had a lean supply of homes and a sellers' market, with monthly home sales at an all-time record high. Sellers have recognized that they need to be more competitive in their pricing given the rise in housing inventories. Home prices are only a little higher than a year ago."

More to the point was NAR President Thomas Stevens. "Relative to the five-year housing boom, this year is a buyer's market in much of the country with plentiful supply," he said in a statement.

Blame it on oversupply and a market that's returning to earth. Realtors say that the fierce bidding wars and inflated price tags are no more. Housing inventory levels rose 3.8% at the end of June to 3.73 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.8-month supply at the current sales pace, the NAR says. By contrast, there was a tight 4.4-month supply at the same time last year.

Moreover, Stevens said in an interview that inventory levels will continue to rise as appreciation and sales slow because the boom brought out a disproportionate number of investors along with the traditional home owner. "They're trying to sell their investment to realize a gain, and that will add more inventory to the marketplace."
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