Pending Sales Fall; Realtors Scale Back '08 Forecast

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Pending U.S. home sales dipped in November, a
trade group for real estate agents said Tuesday, but it expects the
sales pace to pick up significantly in the second half of 2008.
In another indication that the housing market's struggles aren't
finished, the National Association of Realtors said its seasonally
adjusted index of pending sales for existing homes fell to a
WASHINGTON (AP) - Pending U.S. home sales dipped in November, a

trade group for real estate agents said Tuesday, but it expects the

sales pace to pick up significantly in the second half of 2008.

In another indication that the housing market's struggles aren't

finished, the National Association of Realtors said its seasonally

adjusted index of pending sales for existing homes fell to a

reading of 87.6 from an upwardly revised October index of 89.9.

The index, which was down 19.2 percent from a year ago, hit a

record low in August at the peak of the worldwide credit squeeze.

Typically there is a one to two-month lag between when a buyer

signs a home sales contract and the closing of the deal. Sales

completed last month and into this month should be reflected in the

November reading.

An index reading of 100 is equal to the average level of sales

activity in 2001, when the index started. The index fell to a

record low of 85.5 in August, during the worst month of the

worldwide credit crunch.

The Realtors group also projected U.S. existing home sales would

increase 0.9 percent this year to 5.7 million, up from a projected

5.65 million last year.

Final results for U.S. existing home sales in 2007 - to be

released later this month - are expected to be down 12.7 percent

from 6.48 million in 2006, the group said.

The group's forecast for 2008 was unchanged from last month. The

trade group also forecast 5.91 million home sales in 2009.

"The exact timing and the strength of a home sales recovery is

a bit uncertain," Lawrence Yun, the group's chief economist, said

in a statement. "A meaningful recovery in existing-home sales

could occur as early as this spring, or it may be further delayed

toward late 2008."

Numerous economists, however, are much more pessimistic about

the housing market this year and are predicting far lower home

sales.

In addition, the group did not anticipate 2007's severe housing

market downturn. A year ago, it was predicting more than 6.4

million existing home sales - about 760,000 more than actually

happened.

The group is predicting the median price for existing homes in

the U.S. will have dropped 1.9 percent in 2007 to $217,600 - the

first annual drop since the trade group began tracking the data.

That number is projected to remain flat in 2008 before rising to

$224,400 in 2009. The median is the point at which half sell for

more money and half sell for less.

The Realtors group predicted new home sales would fall 13.4

percent this year to 669,000, down from a projected total of

773,000 in 2007. It forecast new home sales would rebound to

730,000 in 2009 and projected new home prices would be flat this

year at $242,200, before rising to $256,500 in 2009.

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