After winter storm impact, moderate home sales growth expected

Winter storms have battered several regions around the country, but harsh weather isn't totally to blame for a less-than-stellar housing market, according to one economist.

In fact, home sales began to slow before winter, noted BNP Paribas U.S. Economist Yelena Shulyatyeva.

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"We saw existing home sales peaking in the middle of last year, in July, and since then, existing home sales have been on a downward trend," she said.

What's more, the West, which has largely escaped snowstorms, has seen disappointing home sales because fewer distressed properties available for sale there means it is more difficult to find deals, according to Shulyatyeva.

Still, new single-family home sales rose 9.6 percent in January, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 468,000 units, when economist had been expecting a decline. And rising home prices have helped earnings for companies such as luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers, for instance.

While spring weather could help release some pent-up demand, don't expect tremendous acceleration in home sales, Shulyatyeva said. Higher home prices, tighter inventories and stricter lending standards are likely to keep sales growth moderate, she added.