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National existing-homes sales decline in February

By: 21 March 2011 2 Comments

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported the sales of existing homes declined across the nation in February.

According to the NAR report, there were 4.88 million single-family, existing homes sold in February — down 2.8 percent from 5.02 million sold in the same month a year ago. The report counts the number of completed transactions covering single-family houses, condominiums, co-ops and townhouses,  that are not new.

Frankly, we at First Arkansas News don’t know what to make of the report for at least a couple of reasons.First of all, the first set of housing numbers supplied to First Arkansas News is from northwest Arkansas and shows a 19.31 percent increase in sales in February compared to the same month last year. That report counts both new and existing sales, but the substantial increase appears out of line with national trends.

Second, there’s the question about the accuracy of the NAR’s numbers. Indeed, the NAR gets sales from about 40 percent of the multiple listings services in the nation, tosses them in a formula and comes up with a number. CoreLogic, a California-based company, has alleged the NAR may have overstated its sales reports by as much as 20 percent since 2007 while NAR officials have said they’re looking into the issue and may revise those reports this summer.

NAR spokesman Walter Molony said the NAR used the same methodology in developing the February report.

“Until there is a consensus agreement on a new independent benchmark (among outside housing economists, government agencies, etc.), we have no choice but to use the current model,” Molony said in an email. “It’s important to note this would not affect previous characterizations of monthly changes (little or no impact on percentage changes), or in relative total sales from one year to the next.”

Meanwhile, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said the drop in February sales has a lot to do with appraisals and stiffer lending requirements put in place in response the record number of foreclosures that began in earnest around the time the subprime lending market melted down in 2007.

“Housing affordability conditions have been at record levels and the economy has been improving, but home sales are being constrained by the twin problems of unnecessarily tight credit, and a measurable level of contract cancellations from some appraisals not supporting prices negotiated between buyers and sellers,” he said in a news release.

As for Arkansas, we’ll have a better handle on how sales are going here when we post the February report for central Arkansas in a week or so.

About: Ethan C. Nobles:
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email =


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