Maine home sales fall in October; price continues rise

Posted Nov. 24, 2010, at 6:30 a.m.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — A real estate organization says sales of existing single-family homes in Maine fell 29 percent in October compared a year ago, while median prices inched up.

The Maine Association of Realtors said Tuesday that real estate agents sold 885 homes last month, down from 1,247 homes in October 2009.

The median sales price came in at $166,500, which was up 1 percent. Last month, the Maine Real Estate Information System reported real estate agents sold 899 homes in September, down from 1,139 in September 2009. The median sales price statewide for that month rose 1.7 percent.

For the three-month period from August through October, home sales were down 20 percent from last year.

Cumberland County had the highest median price at $225,000, while Somerset County had the lowest median price at just under $86,000.

Nationally, Moody’s Analytics on Tuesday forecast that housing prices will decline though the middle of next year, with some areas harder hit than others.

The worst declines will occur in markets with the largest supply of bank-owned homes like Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Riverside, Calif. The more moderate drops will come from Austin, Texas, and Albany, N.Y., where home prices have been more stable than the national average, Moody’s said.

Moody’s Analytics expects the number of bank-owned homes will peak early next year at 971,000, an increase of 16 percent over 2010.

Figures released Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors underscores the grim outlook for housing.

Sales of previously owned homes fell 2.2 percent last month from September. That was a weaker performance than expected and comes after two straight months of gains. The rate of sales had plunged to a 15-year low in July.

The Realtors’ economist also predicted that sales for the year would total 4.8 million, or 7 percent below last year’s pace. That would be the worst showing since 1997.

Would-be homebuyers are sticking to the sidelines because they are worried about jobs or can’t qualify for a loan, despite the lure of the lowest mortgage rates in decades. Others are trying to sell their own homes first before purchasing another.

A report on October sales of new homes is set to be released Wednesday by the Commerce Department.

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