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Existing-home sales falter in February

Distressed properties jump to 39% of sales, drive prices down

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After three straight months of increases, sales of existing homes dropped in February, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors. "Housing affordability conditions have been at record levels and the economy has been improving, but home sales are being constrained by the twin problems of unnecessarily tight credit, and a measurable level of contract cancellations from some appraisals not supporting prices negotiated between buyers and sellers," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, in a statement. "This tug and pull is causing a gradual but uneven recovery. Existing-home sales remain 26.4 percent above the cyclical low last July." Completed sales of single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops in February fell 9.6 percent compared to January and 2.8 percent compared to February 2010, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million. January's sales rate was revised upward to 5.4 million, boosted by sales to investors and cash...