Home Sales on Pace for Dismal Year

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WASHINGTON -- The number of Americans who bought previously occupied homes fell in September. Home sales are on pace to match last year's dismal figures -- the worst in 13 years.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that home sales fell 3 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.91 million homes. That's below the 6 million that economists say is consistent with a healthy housing market.

The housing market has been hobbled by foreclosures, weak demand and falling home prices. Last year 4.91 million previously occupied homes were sold, the lowest level since 1997.

Homes at risk of foreclosure edged down to 30 percent of sales, from 31 percent in August. Many of the sales went to investors, who are buying homes under $100,000. First-time homebuyers, critical to a housing recovery, were unchanged at 32 percent of all sales.

Many people are reluctant to purchase a home more than two years after the recession officially ended. Even the lowest mortgage rates in history haven't been enough to lift sales.

Some can't qualify for loans or meet higher down payment requirements. Many with good credit and stable jobs are holding off because they fear that home prices will keep falling.

Home sales are also being hurt by a steep decline in first-time buyers. First-time buyers are critical because their purchases of low and moderately priced homes allow sellers to move up to more expensive homes.

Most economists say home prices will keep falling, by at least 5 percent, through the rest of the year. Many forecasts don't anticipate a rebound in prices until at least 2013.

The Obama administration is trying to expand a program that allows homeowners to refinance their mortgages. But economists say that will do little to help the depressed housing market.

Wealthy buyers are still purchasing homes priced at more than $1 million in the affluent Northeast and growing Midwest. And investors are scooping up dirt-cheap homes in the battered South and West for less than $100,000. They are specifically targeting foreclosures in hard-hit areas, such as Phoenix, Las Vegas and Tampa, Fla.

Foreclosures and short sales -- when a lender agrees to sell for less than what is owed on a mortgage -- have made up a larger portion of home sales. Those homes, which sell at an average 20 percent discount, drag down all home prices and hurt sales.

The high rate of foreclosures has made re-sold homes much cheaper than new homes. The median price of a new home is now roughly 30 percent higher than the price for a previously occupied home -- almost twice the normal markup.

Even homes that are under contract and near closing are falling apart at the last minute. The Realtors' group has noted an increasing number of deals have been canceled because appraisals came in below a negotiated price.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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33 PHOTOS
Mansions With Over-The-Top Amenities
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Home Sales on Pace for Dismal Year

Location: Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. 
Beds/Baths: 11/15
Sq. Ft.: 16,500

So you've got the 13-seat movie theater, underground path with stone walls and sconces, hand-carved walnut furniture, game room, Roman spa with mosaic walls, Italian stone fountains, tennis court, 10-car garage and -- drumroll -- dog-grooming station. Yeah, that all comes with this jaw-dropper. But a two-lane bowling alley? That's just rad.  

View a slide show of all "Casa Del Sol" has going for it

That's one fully stocked bowling alley -- and we bet you don't have to pay a rental fee for the shoes either. 

View a slide show of all "Casa Del Sol" has going for it

The 13-seat movie theater that may or may not have been the creation of an ... Oscar winner?

You decide

Location: Lincoln, Mass. 
Price: $9.5 million
Beds/Baths: 7/8
Sq. Ft.: 13,676

This sprawling manse has one amenity that redefines the term sunporch. 

See a slideshow of the cool features this property delivers

So you can sunbathe and not get sunburned at home. If you get tired of soaking in ultraviolet-free rays, you've also got a bowling alley and tennis court at your disposal. And lots of vintage wine in the wine cellar. 

See the listing for more details.

No room for swimming laps in this puppy. But that's not what it's about: You've got the billiards table, bowling alley and tennis court for exercise. (OK, maybe it's a stretch to consider billiards a form of exercise.)

See the listing for details. 

Location: Moorestown, N.J. 
Price: $8.9 million
Beds/Baths: 7/8
Sq. Ft.: N/A

We're not quite sure why this house is called  "Tabula Rasa" -- the epistemological theory that humans are born as blank slates without any built-in mental content. One interpretation: The original owner feels he willed this mega-mansion into existence. It boasts its own private indoor basketball court and two-lane bowling alley. 

See some other amenities that come with the place

Shoot some hoops with natural lighting. 

Here you must grapple with your finite reserve of athletic talent. But your mental game? The sky is the limit. Tabula rasa! Tabula rasa! Hmmm.... 

More shots of the bowling alley

Location: Chappaqua, N.Y.
Price: $27.5 million
Beds/Baths: 6/12
Sq. Ft.: 20,000

This massive New York estate is suited for ball sports aficionados: The property has its own tennis court and basketball court. 

See the other insane amenities this property serves up

Just be sure not to shank any forehands -- looks like stray balls could get lost pretty easily in those woods. 

Check out the home's luxurious interior.

If it's too bright out, it turns out there's also an indoor basketball court with its own scoreboard. 

See the indoor basketball court

Location: Millbrook, N.Y. 
Price: $27 million
Beds/Baths: 6/6
Sq. Ft.: 9,113

This estate is a horse-lover's dream.

See what else this large swath of Millbrook real estate has going for it.  

This equestrian facility appears to have enough space for an indoor horse show. Outdoors there are 144 acres to gallop -- or trot -- across. 


Digest the full grandeur of this place by viewing 25 photos of it. 

For the resident thoroughbreds...

Get a glimpse into some of the other ways the owner of this estate spends his time

Location: Saddle River, N.J. 
Price: $12.5 million
Beds/Baths: 8/11
Sq. Ft.: 18,250

This sprawling colonial offers a gorgeous home theater, along with an indoor basketball court. 

But that's not all ...

With chairs this comfy, you might have trouble staying awake for the actual show -- if it weren't for the premium sound system. 

The perks of this mansion come nowhere close to ending here. 

Just because there's a hoop doesn't mean Pilates and yoga are off limits, though there's ample space for that in the exercise room too.

See the listing for more details. 

Location: Atlanta, Ga.
Price: $12.5 million
Beds/Baths: 5/8
Sq. Ft.: N/A

Touted as "Buckhead's finest estate," this Southern mansion sits on three private acres and boasts a picture-perfect pool and hot tub in the back. But what really caught our eye was the home's golf simulator. 

There are an enormous number of other amenities on the property

So you can hit the links -- when you're not in the library, butler's pantry, gourmet kitchen, massage room, steam room, sauna, home theater, etc. 

See how else this home's owner revels in luxury

Take your pick for exercise facility: full-size gymnasium or yoga studio?   

See the listing for more details. 

Location: Orono, Minn. 
Price: $4.95 million
Beds/Baths: 4/7
Sq. Ft.: 10,505

This expanded lakeshore residence offers a range of unusual features, including a golf simulator and indoor hockey arena. 

Click through a slideshow of the place to get the scoop. 

For those elusive roller-hockey aficionados: Odds are, during the games here, checking is a big no-no; you nail someone into the boards in this arena, and they've got a good chance of tumbling over them. 

The fun doesn't stop here

Regardless of where your virtual drive lands, you're never in the rough if you live in this palace. 

See why that's a fact

Location: Castle Rock, Colo.
Price: $3.999 million
Beds/Baths: 6/8
Sq. Ft.: 10,668

Stretching 73 acres, this estate delivers a whole lot of real estate and clearly had an owner at some point who adores our national pastime. In addition to a baseball diamond and indoor batting range, the mansion offers a stunning backyard pool and seven-car garage. 

Get a glimpse at some of the perks of this giant estate

Knock it out of the park, or should we say, private baseball diamond. 

Or don't, and enjoy other luxuries

Hit it out of the park, or should we say, this time, into the netting of a private indoor batting range. 

See the other ways this home scores big

Location: Andover, Mass. 
Price: $6.5 million
Beds/Baths: 9/10
Sq. Ft.: 20,043

This behemoth of a home takes the cake for square footage on our list. One of the reasons? It has a full-size indoor basketball court. 

See the elaborate details of the interior

It's pretty much indistinguishable from your standard high school basketball court. The home also comes with an arcade, pool, locker room, bowling alley and home theater. 

But that's not all, not by a long shot

Location: Incline Village, Nev. 
Price: $49.9 million
Beds/Baths: 3/2
Sq. Ft.: 2,368

For some tycoons there may come a time when collecting cars gets old. If that happens, they should buy this compound. It has a garage that is so big that you can store nine buses in it. The residence spans five parcels that can be purchased individually. They contain the Main House, Lake House and Carriage House (which houses the garage). 

Read a full profile of the home or view the listing


Stretching across 12,000 square feet, the underground two-story garage can accommodate nine full-size buses, not to mention countless cars, SUVs, motorcycles and golf carts (model not included).

See some over-the-top features of this property. 

The garage is accessible by a 12-by-60-foot elevator (pictured here). 

For more details (and there are a heck of a lot of them) see the listing. 

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