'Uneven' housing recovery continues

existing_home_sales.gi.top.jpg By Annalyn Censky, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Sales of existing homes increased in March, "continuing an uneven recovery" in real estate, an industry group said Wednesday.

Home sales rose at an annual rate of 5.1 million in March, up 3.7% from February, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. However, sales were 6.3% lower than in March 2010.

Government reports released a day earlier showed new home construction and permits for future construction both ticked up in March.

Those reports are not bad, but not great either. Despite slight upticks in home sales and construction, the housing sector is still in the doldrums as supply continues to far outweigh demand for homes.

"Even as buyers scoop up deals of a lifetime, the river of foreclosed properties continues to flow," Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in a note to investors Wednesday morning.

The median home price slipped 5.9% to $159,600, compared to a year earlier.

Meanwhile, some buyers are still finding it tough to get a mortgage, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said in a release. The average credit score to get a conventional mortgage has risen to 760 from 720 in 2007.

"Although home sales are coming back without a federal stimulus, sales would be notably stronger if mortgage lending would return to the normal, safe standards that were in place a decade ago -- before the loose lending practices that created the unprecedented boom and bust cycle," he said.

First-time buyers purchased 33% of homes in March, down from 44% in March 2010. Investors accounted for 22% of sales, up from 19% a year ago.

All-cash sales were at a record high in March, accounting for 35% of existing home sales.

The report was roughly in line with economists' forecasts for home sales to grow at an annual rate of 5 million. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,083.80 -2.83 -0.02%
Nasdaq 4,472.11 -1.59 -0.04%
S&P 500 1,987.98 0.97 0.05%
Treasuries 2.51 0.04 1.83%
Data as of 7:37am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Facebook Inc 74.98 3.69 5.18%
Ford Motor Co 17.84 0.06 0.34%
Yahoo! Inc 36.17 1.46 4.21%
Bank of America Corp... 15.62 0.10 0.64%
Apple Inc 97.03 -0.16 -0.16%
Data as of Jul 24

Sections

Rupert Murdoch is merging BSkyB with 2 other satellite TV operators, adding more than $8 billion in cash to pursue . U.S. deals. More

The government says health insurers are charging lower premiums, thanks to a provision in Obamacare. More

In New York City, business travelers have ditched meals at Starbucks in favor of Seamless takeout, according to a new report. More

CNNMoney readers rip managers who micromanage to death, play favorites, throw their staff under the bus and steal credit for their work. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.