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Published: Saturday, 5/24/2008

Home sales slide 8 out of 9 months; Lucas County suffers 9% tumble in April


WASHINGTON - Sales of existing homes nationally fell for the eighth time in the past nine months, with the backlog of unsold single-family homes rising to the highest level in more than two decades.

The National Association of Realtors said that existing home sales dropped by 1 percent to 4.89 million units, matching the all-time low set in January. These records go back to 1999.

In Lucas County, sales were down 9 percent in April from the year before, to 371 houses from 409, but the average sale price rose to $118,000 from $112,000 a year earlier, the Toledo Board of Realtors said.

The median price nationally for an existing home dropped 8 percent, compared with a year ago, to $202,300.

Analysts predicted more price declines, given the huge backlog of unsold single-family homes, which rose in April to 10.7 months' supply at the current sales pace, the highest inventory level since June, 1985.

The Ohio Board of Realtors reported statewide sales of existing and new homes dropped 12.5 percent for April, with $132,719 the average sales price, down 9.2 percent from a year ago.

The Reuters/University of Michigan report, released yesterday, is the latest indicator of grim sentiment among consumers, who have been hit hard by the worst housing slump since the Depression, record energy costs, and a shrinking job market.

About 28 percent expected the values to decline.

The survey was based on phone interviews conducted in late April and early May with 392 people. It showed just 17 percent anticipated that the value of their homes would increase, versus 35 percent recorded a year ago. Homeowners' expectations for the longer term also have deteriorated.

The national sales drop was slightly smaller than had been expected. The housing industry is being battered by a prolonged slump that has seen sales and prices decline and mortgage foreclosures soar, the aftermath of a five-year housing boom.

Meanwhile, twice as many Americans expect the value of their homes to fall in the next 12 months as a year ago, while price rises in the next five years will fail to keep pace with inflation, according to the results of a survey.

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