WASHINGTON -- People are buying homes at the weakest pace in 14 years.
Sales of previously occupied homes fell in June for a third straight month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.77 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.
This year's pace is lagging behind the 4.91 million homes sold last year -- the fewest since 1997. In a healthy economy, people buy roughly 6 million homes per year.
Fewer first-time homebuyers are entering the market. Many can't obtain a loan or meet larger down payment requirements.
Another problem is that a growing number of contracts are being canceled before sales are finalized, many because of lower appraisals that are scuttling loans. And the slowdown in hiring is making people think twice about taking on extra debt.
First-time homebuyers, who are critical to a strong and stable housing markets, have shrunk to 31 percent of sales. That's the fewest since January, 2010. Normally, first-time buyers make up about half of all home sales. And their purchases of low and moderately priced homes allow sellers to move up to pricier homes.