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Houston home sales dip in March, but prices on the rise

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Houston home sales fell in March for the second month in a row but the average home price rose again, hitting the highest price ever for the month of March. The lower sales volume is compared to sales activity in March 2010, which was partly driven by the federal government’s first-time homebuyer tax credit incentive, according to information from the Houston Association of Realtors. Nationally, home sales rose in March. The comparison of March figures with March 2010 "is a bit skewed in the sense that it continues to reflect a comparison to the period a year ago where the homebuyer tax credit encouraged consumers to purchase a home prior to the April 30 deadline," said Carlos P. Bujosa, HAR chairman and vice president at Transwestern. "It is encouraging that properties continue to go under contract at the levels we saw last year, a time when the tax credit was a huge incentive." March sales of single-family homes fell 4.4% compared to one year earlier. As in February, the popular middle segments of the Houston housing market, consisting of homes priced between $80,000 and $250,000, experienced declining sales while the low- and high-ends saw an increase in number of sales, according to the data. Luxury home sales boosted the average price of a single-family home for a third straight month. The average price rose 3.3% to $217,597 compared to March 2010. The March single-family home median price — the figure at which half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less — dipped 1.7% year-over-year to $150,900. Multiple Listing Service reported that foreclosure property sales increased by 3.6% in March compared to one year earlier. In March, foreclosures made up 23.5% of all property sales. The median price of the foreclosures fell last month over the year-ago period by 7.1% to $82,000. March sales of all property types in Houston totaled 5,509, down 5% compared to the same month in the previous year. Total dollar volume for properties sold during the month declined 2.3% to $1.1 billion versus $1.2 billion one year earlier, the data said. Write to Shaina Zucker.

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