New housing data from the Obama administration underscores the housing market's fragility. The Obama administration's October Housing Scorecard Report reveals September new home sales rose to 26,100, down from 26,300 the same month a year earlier, but up from August's total of 24,700. Existing home sales grew to 409,200 in September, up 10% from 367,250 a year earlier. August existing home sales were higher than September at 421,700. "Last month we saw a continued fall in mortgage defaults, due in part to our foreclosure prevention programs reaching more borrowers upstream in the process," said Raphael Bostic, assistant secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. "And in the last quarter, a million more homeowners refinanced their loans under some of the lowest interest rates in history." There were 70,700 notice of defaults, or foreclosure starts, in September, down 31% from a year earlier the same month when they totaled 102,400. They dropped slightly from last month when foreclosure starts were 78,900. September refinance originations clocked in at 964,800, down 28% from 1,341,000 a year earlier in the same month. First-time buyers in September rose to 217,000 from 196,900 the same month a year earlier. "To help responsible homeowners, we have to make it easier for people to refinance at interest rates that are now near 4% — putting hundreds of dollars in real savings back in their pockets each month, and giving a boost to our fragile economy,” Bostic said. Write to Justin T. Hilley. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHilley.