Existing-Home Sales Fall in June

By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 25, 2006; 3:00 PM

Sales of previously owned homes in the United States fell in June for the eighth time in the past 10 months, reflecting a continued slowdown in the housing market, according to a report released today by the National Association of Realtors.

The Washington region followed that trend.

In Loudoun County, for example, 515 existing single-family homes and condominiums were sold last month, down from 994 in June 2005, a 48.2 percent decline. Home prices dropped last month in Loudoun for the first time in six years.

Today's report shows that across the United States home sales dropped 1.3 percent in June to an annual pace of 6.62 million units -- more proof that American homes have become harder to sell as mortgage interest rates have been heading up.

Meanwhile, the median selling price of a home rose 0.9 percent -- to $231,000 -- in June from the same period last year. (The median is the point at which half the sales are higher and half are lower.)

But home prices in some parts of Maryland bucked the national trend, rising 12.5 percent during the past year in Prince George's County (to $337,500 in June), 11.9 percent in St. Mary's County ($335,000), 6.1 percent in Montgomery County ($467,000) and five percent in Anne Arundel County ($351,750).

The picture isn't as pretty for some homeowners in northern Virginia, where selling prices were down 1.2 percent in Loudoun County (to $485,000) and unchanged in Fairfax County, Fairfax City, Arlington County, Alexandria and Falls Church ($500,000).

In the District, the median price of a single-family home and condominium rose 3.6 percent to $430,000.

"The change in price performance is directly tied to housing inventories," David Lereah, the real estate association'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."

In addition, home sales may be affected by mortgage rates, which have risen to the highest levels in more than four years.

But Lereah said the decline in home sales may be slowing.

"Over the last three months home sales have held in a narrow range, easing to a level that is near our annual projection, which tells us the market is stabilizing," he said. "At the same time, sellers have recognized that they need to be more competitive in their pricing given the rise in housing inventories. "

As a result, "home prices are only a little higher than a year ago," Lereah added.

In the Washington region, homes are taking a lot longer to sell.

For example, in June 2005, the average home in the Fairfax-Arlington-Fairfax-Falls Church area took 15 days to sell.

Last month, the typical home in that market sold after 49 days.

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