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Published: Tuesday, 3/25/2008

Existing-home sales rise for month

Previously owned houses sold last month at an annual pace of 5 million. Previously owned houses sold last month at an annual pace of 5 million.

WASHINGTON - Sales of existing homes rose unexpectedly in February for the first time in seven months, the National Association of Realtors reported yesterday.

Purchases increased 2.9 percent to an annual rate of 5 million, but the median price dropped 8.2 percent to $195,900 from February, 2007, the most since those records began in 1968.

The price decline was led by an 8.7 percent drop for single-family houses.

Lucas County defied the nationwide sales results. Sales slipped 26 percent to 251 from February, 2007, and the average price dropped 2 percent to $110,000.

Economists had forecast existing-home sales would decline to a 4.9 million pace for February, according to the median of 63 projections in a Bloomberg News survey.

"It looks like this may be a temporary pause," said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at Global Insight Inc. in Lexington, Mass.

Sales of single-family homes increased 2.8 percent to a 4.47 million pace. Those of condos and co-ops climbed 3.7 percent to a 560,000 rate.

By region of the country, sales surged by 11.3 percent in the Northeast and were up 2.5 percent in the Midwest and 2.1 percent in the South. The West was only region with a decline, of 1.1 percent.

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