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Sales Of Existing Homes Rose 2.7 Percent In January

Jan. 10, 2011: A sold sign in front of a home in Millis, Mass. Steven Senne/AP hide caption

toggle caption Steven Senne/AP

Jan. 10, 2011: A sold sign in front of a home in Millis, Mass.

Steven Senne/AP

Sales of previously owned single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums and co-ops rose 2.7 percent in January from December, to a 5.36 million annual rate, the National Association of Realtors says.

And existing home sales were "5.3 percent above the 5.09 million level [of] January 2010."

According to NAR, it was "the first time in seven months that sales activity was higher than a year earlier."

And Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, tells NPR's Giles Snyder that the increase "is very encouraging because it may be implying sustained gains in sales. It is the fifth increase in the past six months."

The Wall Street Journal notes, though, that "a drop in prices to their lowest level in nearly nine years suggests the housing market continues to search for a bottom. ... The median sales price for an existing home fell to $158,800, the lowest level since April 2002. That is down 3.7% from the year-ago median price of $164,900 and well below the median of $168,800 in December."

Yun says prices are still soft because many properties remain vacant after the housing bust of the past few years. The market, he says, is going through a "natural healing process."

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