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Home prices post record drop in October

Median price sinks 3.5 percent from a year earlier, trade group see more price declines ahead.

By Chris Isidore, CNNMoney.com senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The price of existing homes sold in October fell for the third straight month and posted the biggest drop on record, an industry group said Tuesday, adding it expects weakness in pricing to drag on into next year.

The National Association of Realtors said that the median price of a home sold in October was $221,000, the same as in September, but down 3.5 percent from October 2005.

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The previous record drop was a 2.1 percent decline in November 1990, the real estate group said.

While month-to-month declines in home prices are not uncommon, year-to-year drops had been rare before the recent housing slump. Last August was the first month in 11 years to see such a decline. September was originally reported as a record 2.2 percent drop, but a revision in those numbers put that price decline at 1.8 percent.

The weakness in home prices isn't likely to go away soon, according to Realtors spokesman Walter Molony. "We do expect we'll see prices stay below year-ago levels through the end of this year, and pick up in the first quarter of 2007," he said.

Pat Vredevoogd Combs, a Grand Rapids, Mich., Realtor and president of the trade group, said in a statement the the market has become a good one for buyers.

"With the exception of parts of the West, sellers are cutting their price enough to encourage sales," she said. A sharp drop in sales and prices in once-hot markets such as Washington D.C. and parts of Florida, coupled with improved sales in some lower-price markets in Texas, have driven median prices down 7 percent in the South.

But all four regions of the country posted a year-over-year decline in median prices.

"A fourth of the nation - areas that had the biggest boom - is in a correction that will take longer to balance," she added.

The number of homes sold last month ticked up slightly from September, rising to an annual rate of 6.24 million from 6.21 million. The trade group characterized that as a sign that the overall real estate market was stabilizing.

But that sales pace is still down 11.5 percent from a year earlier. And the slower sales has led to the glut of homes on the market, with supply rising once again to a record 3.9 million existing homes for sale, up 1.9 percent from September, and 34.4 percent from a year earlier.

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