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Making Sense of Sales (Maybe)

Home Sales Classified
Home Sales Classified

The Realtors told a room full of reporters Tuesday that existing home sales are “stable,” because they’re really stuck between 4.9 and 5.1 million units (that’s the seasonally adjusted annual rate).

So that has everyone asking if we’re bumping along the bottom. I’m not so sure.

The trouble is that there are a lot of factors working against sales right now -- factors that are deteriorating, not improving. Number one is house prices. Sales may be bumping, but prices continue their slide down, and most of the “experts” I talk to think prices have a lot further to go, because foreclosures are mounting, as are inventories.

Then there’s the whole economy thing: We’ve said throughout this housing downturn that it’s unique because usually we see housing recessions in times of economic recession, and this housing downturn came before recession -- and may have actually caused one.

Last year, we were still seeing job growth as housing faltered, but now we’ve seen 300,000 private-sector jobs lost in just the past four months. Add that to the credit crunch, and it doesn’t spell recovery for home sales.

And what about the northeast? Yes, we saw a bit of a bump there recently, but remember, the northeast has some of the lowest inventory of anywhere in the country (not a lot of open land that builders went nutty on), and prices outside of the big cities really didn’t boom so much as other markets in the south and west.

In other words, I think we have a ways more to go.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com