Sales of existing homes fell 3.8 percent in May, not as deep a drop as some had forecast, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.81 million units.
April's figure was revised down to 5 million.
Potential homebuyers continue to be held back by tough credit standards and poor confidence. Sales activity was 15.3 percent below the pace set in May of 2010, when buyers were rushing to take advantage of the home buyer tax credit.
“Spiking gasoline prices along with widespread severe weather hurt house shopping in April, leading to soft figures for actual closings in May,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $166,500 in May, down 4.6 percent from May 2010. Home prices continue to be pressured by the large supply of distressed properties, which typically sold at a discount of about 20 percent in May. Foreclosures and short sales, where the home is sold for less than the value of the mortgage, accounted for 31 percent of sales in May, down from 37 percent in April.