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Low Prices And Rates Can't Slow Fall In Home Sales

"I can't carry two houses," he said.

The housing market is also being hampered by the weakening economic recovery. Unemployment remains stuck at 9.5 percent, and many potential buyers worry that they might not have a job to pay the mortgage.

Prices have also fallen because foreclosures are running about 10 times higher than before the housing bust. Though the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage has fallen to 4.42 percent, many people can't qualify because banks have tightened lending standards.

The drop in July sales compared with June was worst in the Midwest, at 35 percent. Sales sank 30 percent in the Northeast, 25 percent in the West and 23 percent in the South.

Nationally, the median sale price was $182,600, up 0.7 percent from a year ago, but down 0.2 percent from June.

More broadly, the plunge in home sales is magnifying fears that a worsening real estate market could cause consumers to pull back on spending. The overall economy would suffer.

"The housing market is undermining the already faltering wider economic recovery," said Paul Dales, U.S. economist with Capital Economics. "With the increasingly inevitable double-dip in prices yet to come, things could yet get a lot worse."


Elphinstone reported from New York.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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