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For-sale inventories shrink for fourth month in a row

Realtor.com: List prices holding steady or posting gains in two-thirds of markets

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Inventories of homes, condos, townhouses and co-ops shrank for the fourth month in a row in August, falling 1.9 percent from July and 19 percent from a year ago, to 2.27 million, according to the latest numbers from Realtor.com.

Among the 146 markets most searched by Realtor.com users, the total number of listings increased from a year ago in only three: Denver, Colo. (+53.8 percent), El Paso, Texas (+6.3 percent) and Hartford, Conn. (+2.2 percent).

Inventories were down by 10 percent or more from a year ago in 118 markets, including declines of nearly 50 percent in Miami, Orlando and Fort Myers.

Shrinking inventories can signal a rise in demand, but may also reflect a slowdown in homes moving through the foreclosure process that restricts the supply of real estate owned (REO) properties.

Areas with high unemployment rates and large numbers of seriously delinquent borrowers could again see inventories swell as lenders put the "robo signing&q...