The inventory of homes for sale fell 11.7 percent in April compared to a year ago, to 8.1 months, according to a survey by the Associated Press and RE/MAX International.

All but nine of 55 markets surveyed saw sales increase from March to April, RE/MAX said, with the largest increases in markets that have seen the greatest price declines. Sales were up 84.9 percent from a year ago in Las Vegas, 79.4 percent in Phoenix, 56.2 percent in Miami, and 47.2 percent in Los Angeles.

The survey estimated the median home price at $182,913, down 0.7 percent from March and 21.9 percent from a year ago — a trend attributed to the slower pace of sales of high-end properties.

Higher-priced homes "will not start selling until jumbo loans are more easily available to the consumer," said Margaret Kelly, chief executive officer of RE/MAX International, Inc., in a statement.

A recent report by the National Association of Realtors estimated that homes priced above $750,000 accounted for 4.4 percent of sales in 2007, but only 2.3 percent of sales this year. Inventories of high-priced homes have risen from 18.7 months to 41.1 months during the same period, NAR said (see story).

In California, sales of existing homes were up 49.2 percent in April from a year ago, while the median home price fell 36.5 percent, to $256,700, the California Association of Realtors reported.

Inventory of existing homes fell from 9.8 months a year ago to 4.6 months in April, but the state’s "two-tier" market was reflected by dramatic differences in inventory at the high and low end of the market, CAR President James Liptak said in a statement.

The inventory of homes priced under $500,000 shrank to just above three months in April, compared with nearly 10 months a year ago, CAR said. The supply of homes priced above $1 million rose to approximately 17 months, compared with about 10 months a year ago.

Nationwide, sales of new homes have yet to rebound, but inventory continue to shrink as home construction remains at a near standstill, according to the latest numbers from the Census Bureau. …CONTINUED

Sales of newly built single family homes rose an almost imperceptible 0.3 percent from March to April, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 352,000, the Census Bureau reported.

That’s up 7 percent from the low of 329,000 homes per year recorded in January. But looking back a year, new-home sales were down 34 percent; they were off 60 percent from the 887,000 per-year pace seen in April 2008.

But the National Association of Home Builders cheered that new-home inventory dropped below the 300,000 mark. The 297,000 new homes on the market in April was the smallest since May 2001, the group said.

But at the current anemic rate of sales, that represents a 10.1-month supply. That’s better than the peak of 12.4 months of supply on the market in January, but six months is considered a more balanced market.

The Census Bureau said the median sales price of a new home rose by about 4 percent from March to April, to $209,700, but was down nearly 15 percent from a year ago.

NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said the continued reduction in inventory helps bring supply in line with demand, which is an important step toward recovery.

"We can expect the pace of new-home sales to bounce along the bottom a bit before picking back up towards the end of this quarter," Crowe predicted.


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