Housing demand generally remained high and residential real estate markets continued to be strong throughout most of the country in January, although cold temperatures and winter storms interrupted home building in some areas, according to a summary Federal Reserve report issued Wednesday.

Gains in home sales and building activity earlier this year were noted in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco, while residential real estate activity continued at “high levels” in Atlanta, St. Louis, Minneapolis and Kansas City. The housing market in the Richmond, Va., district was said to have slowed recently, but builders expected activity to pick up, according to the summary.

Builders and real estate agents in most districts expected home sales in 2004 to be close to the 2003 sales record. Home price appreciation was characterized as steady in most districts with the exception of San Francisco, where the rate of increase was said to have slowed somewhat recently.

High vacancy rates, slowing leasing activity and downward pressures on rents continued to characterize commercial real estate markets in Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago and Kansas City. Major commercial real estate market conditions were “mixed” in St. Louis and Minneapolis. A few districts noted some signs of improvement. Vacancies moved down slightly and rents began to recover in New York and San Francisco while leasing activity picked up in Washington, D.C.


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