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The National Association of Realtors reported May 28 that home purchases rose 0.3% in April (the second increase in the past three months). Is this the latest sign that the housing market might be in recovering? Well, it depends on where you live. First-time buyers and investors are jumping in to take advantage of low prices in California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, and northern Virginia. But the pace of sales almost everywhere else is slowing.
The Realtors don’t break out monthly data by state, but all the action in the first quarter seemed to be happening in California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona, which showed a combined 68.4% increase in sales compared to the first quarter 2008. U.S. sales for the nation dropped 6.8% during that period, but if you subtract those four states, the decline would have been more like 19.1%.
Some of the sales declines in the first quarter are startling. Hawaii home purchases fell off 40%. North Carolina was down 37%. And Washington sales fell 35%. Virginia and Minnesota, which both saw first quarter sales increases of about 12%, were the only other states in positive territory.
BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.