Home sales slump continues

Pending sales of existing homes fall in September, as latest reading from Realtors shows continued slump.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The pace of existing home sales continue to slip in the latest reading of real estate market strength from an industry trade group.

The National Association of Realtors' pending home sales index slipped 1.1 percent in September, to a reading of 109.1, the group reported Wednesday.

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A reading of 100 represents where the market was in 2001, before the home sales boom of the last few years. The index was down 13.6 percent from the sales pace of September 2005.

Every region in the nation, other than the Midwest, showed a slowdown in sales in the most recent month. Still the trade group said the index was still at historically high levels.

"The market currently is a little lower than expected as buyers try to time their entry," said a statement from David Lereah, the chief economist for the group. "In the meantime, there's some buildup in demand that will move when consumers realize that conditions are optimal for them."

The report is a bit more forward looking than the more widely followed existing home sales report from the same group, because it tracks the pace of home sales contracts signed, rather than home closings, which typically come a month or two later.

The pending home sales report does not include any price information. The group's existing home sales report has gotten a lot of attention recently showing a relatively rare year-over-year drop in median home prices for sales that have closed in each of the last two months. The September decline of 2.2 percent is the largest on record for the group.

New home prices have taken an even bigger hit, according to government figures, with prices down nearly 10 percent from a year ago. The slowdown in new home building has hurt profits and sales for the nation's home builders, including Pulte Homes (down $0.11 to $30.88, Charts), Centex (down $0.21 to $52.09, Charts) D.R. Horton (up $0.02 to $23.45, Charts), Lennar (down $0.05 to $47.27, Charts), K.B. Home (up $0.01 to $44.95, Charts) and Toll Brothers (down $0.28 to $28.63, Charts).

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