A sold sign hangs on home in Bainbridge Township, Ohio. Home prices dropped sharply in February, but signs indicate housing crisis could be bottoming.AP PHOTO
NEW YORK — Home sales in the Northeast declined more than any other region in the country in April as job losses took their toll, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.
Northeast home sales fell almost 11 percent from April last year, and the median sales price dropped almost 10 percent to $237,400.
“The first quarter was the worst in terms of unemployment in the Northeast and certainly around the country,” said Michael Lynch, a regional economist with IHS Global Insight. “When people are losing their jobs at that rate, they’re not willing to invest in a new home.”
Nationally, sales of existing homes slipped 4.6 percent in April from the previous year, without adjusting for seasonal factors. The U.S. median sales price slid more than 15 percent to $170,200.
One reason prices in the Northeast are holding up better, Lynch noted, is because — with the exception of Providence, R.I., foreclosures aren’t making up the bulk of sales in the region like they are in the West, for example.
Home sales in all nine major Northeast cities fell in April, with seven recording double-digit declines. Meanwhile, median prices decreased across the region, except in Pittsburgh, according to The Associated Press-Re/Max Monthly Housing Report, also released Wednesday.
But sales surged from the previous month in every metro, according to the report, which analyzed sales transactions in nine Northeast metropolitan statistical areas filed by all real estate agents, regardless of company affiliation.
“Activity unquestioningly picked up in April and May from earlier this year,” said David Friedman, an agent with Coldwell Banker Preferred in Philadelphia.
At the lower end of the Philadelphia market, houses between $200,000 and $450,000 are getting the most interest, he said, mostly because of the new $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers that runs until Dec. 1.
“It’s starting to pique their interest now that the information is out,” Friedman said.
But the luxury home market continues to suffer, because loans for high-priced properties are hard to find. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have picked up the lion’s share of the mortgage market after the credit collapse, only hold or guarantee loans up to $729,750 in the country’s most expensive markets.