March home sales continue to be slow

For sale sign with sky in background

When the housing crisis first struck, sales fell but stabilized near an annualized selling rate of about 5 million homes -- a million or two less than during the go-go years of the real estate boom.

But home sales have tumbled below that the past five months, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The seasonally adjusted annualized selling rate for all homes, including single-family houses, town homes, condominiums and co-ops, fell to 4.49 million homes in January, representing a new low for the struggling housing market despite very affordable mortgage rates.

Although it's rebounded a little since then, the annualized sales rate was still only 4.57 million homes in March.

The median sales price for all housing types was $175,200 in March, up from $165,400 in February and $170,300 in January, but down 12.4% from March 2008.

The Realtors blame much of that decline on the record number of foreclosure and short sales at discounted prices, and a growing number of first-time buyers who buy less-expensive homes.

First-time buyers accounted for 53% of all transactions in March, according the survey.

There were 3.74 million homes on the market at the end of March, down from 3.80 million in February.

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