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U.S., N.M. Home Sales Pick Up Pace

WASHINGTON – U.S. home sales are gradually coming back, including in New Mexico. A mild winter and a stronger job market have helped boost sales ahead of the crucial spring buying season.

The past two months made up the best winter for sales nationally of previously occupied homes in five years, when the housing crisis began. In New Mexico, sales the last two months were the best they have been since 2008.

In fact, with 506 closings in February, single-family detached sales in the greater Albuquerque market saw an increase of 23 percent from 2011 alone, according to the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors.

Nationally, the sales pace in January was the highest since May 2010, the last month that buyers could qualify for a federal home-buying tax credit.

February sales dipped only slightly on a national scale to a seasonally adjusted 4.59 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. That’s 13 percent higher than the sales pace last July and just below the revised 4.63 million in January.

Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said the lower February’s numbers “should not detract from the key point, which is that sales are trending upward.”

The pace remains far below the 6 million that economists equate with healthy markets. And the number of first-time buyers, who are critical to a housing recovery, continues to lag normal levels, while foreclosures remain high.

Still, Chris Jones, economist at TD Economics, said the “economic environment is ripe for home sales to keep gaining pace.”

While the national median sales prices of homes rose for the first time in four months in February, to $156,600, they declined in New Mexico to $161,500, according to GAAR. Similarly, while the supply of homes on the U.S. market increased more than 4 percent in February to 2.43 million, which could signal that more homeowners became confident in the housing market, sellers locally shied from the market. Active listing inventory continued to fall in February to 3,668 in the Albuquerque area, which is seeing the lowest number of existing, detached homes for sale since June 2006, GAAR reports.
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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