The National Association of Realtors trade group is paying for advertisements in six major U.S. newspapers to promote home purchases and sales, the association announced today.

The ad campaign, launched by the trade group’s leadership, carries the message, “It’s a great time to buy or sell a home,” and notes that interest rates have fallen for seven months in a row and are near 40-year lows, while for-sale home inventories are “higher than they have been in decades and prices have stabilized,” the association announced today.

Meanwhile, home sales have slowed nationwide and the winter months are traditionally a slow period for home sales. The association reported last month that the sales rate for existing-homes fell for the sixth straight month in September, and sales were down 14.2 percent that month compared to September 2005.

There was a for-sale home inventory of 7.3 months in September based on the sales pace at that time — a supply over six months typically indicates a market that favors buyers. And the U.S. median existing-home price dropped 2.2 percent to $220,000 in September compared to September 2005.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 6.4 percent in September, compared with 5.77 percent in September 2005 and 6.52 percent in August 2006.

In a separate report, the Realtor group announced this week that its index tracking pending-home sales fell to the lowest level of the year in September and was down 13.6 percent in September compared to September 2005. The association’s Pending Home Sales Index is considered a leading indicator for closed existing-home sales in the following two months.

The Realtor group’s advertisement appears today in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and will appear Sunday in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, the association announced. The ad will appear in the same newspapers again during the Nov. 12 weekend.

“Prices overall have stabilized”; “large inventory won’t last”; “positive outlook”; “real estate is a great investment”; and “don’t delay” are among the messages in the ad.

“Former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan recently said that housing prospects are looking up. ‘Most of the negatives in housing are probably behind us. The fourth quarter should be reasonably good, certainly better than the third quarter.’ According to industry estimates, 2006 will be the third-best year on record for home sales,” the ad states.

In its announcement about the ad campaign, the Realtor group stated, “The perfect conditions for buyers are likely to change as sales pick up, prices gain traction and conditions improve for sellers next year.”

Thomas M. Stevens, NAR president and senior vice president of Realogy Corp.’s NRT Inc., said that two new television and radio ads directed at home buyers and sellers will begin airing in January. Those ads are a part of the association’s $40 million public awareness campaign.

Stevens said in a statement that market conditions are a “perfect alignment of low rates and extraordinary inventory.”

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