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Home sales in region decline 6.3 percent

| Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008

Home sales in the Pittsburgh region fell 6.3 percent in September compared with the same month last year -- capping the largest single three-month sales decline in at least 20 years, according to a report from RealStats.

The South Side-based real estate information company also said median home prices dropped in the July-September period, which might mean the end of an unusual period in which prices increased despite a slowdown in sales.

The median home price dipped to $123,958 in the third quarter, down from $125,000 in the third quarter of 2007, RealStats Vice President Daniel A. Murrer said. The median price is the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less.

Murrer also said the dollar volume of residential sales slipped for the sixth consecutive three-month period, marking the longest continuous period of declining sales in RealStats' database, dating to 1987.

The decline in September marked the 18th consecutive month there has been a drop in home sales. There were 2,311 home sales, compared with 2,467 in September 2007, RealStats said. This September had two more sales days than in September a year ago.

Allegheny County experienced a 7.8 percent drop in homes sold -- from 1,472 to 1,357 -- while Westmoreland County endured a 7.2 percent decline, from 387 to 359. Sales in Beaver County remained unchanged at 170. There was a 4.2 percent drop in Washington County to 228 compared with 238 a year ago, while Butler County, with 197 sales, was down 1.5 percent from 200.

September's median price was unchanged at $118,000, but September's average price rose 2.5 percent to $149,440 from $145,831 a year ago.

The 6.3 percent sales decline in September matched sales reported by West Penn Multi-List, the region's largest home listing service, said Tony Mete, president of the Realtors Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh.

West Penn Multi-List, which reports sales by its members, reported 1,687 sales for the five counties, compared with 1,800 in the same month last year, Mete said.

George Hackett, president of Coldwell Banker Real Estate/Pittsburgh, expects a similar decline in sales during October and November.

"That's not so bad when one compares the Pittsburgh region with other areas of the nation where house sales are down from 15 to 30 percent," Hackett said.

To combat slow sales, Hackett said Coldwell Banker held a nationwide 10-day price reduction event in October. In the Pittsburgh market, 1,000 of the firm's 3,000 listings had price reductions, and 130 of those homes sold. He expects more to sell in November and December.

"I expect single-digit declines in sales for each of the remaining months of 2008. This is the right time to buy with prices down and mortgage interest rates in the 6-percent range," he said.

RealStats said there were 7,634 sales in the third quarter of 2008, down 22 percent from the 9,030 in the third quarter of 2007.

All counties, except Butler, had double-digit declines in dollar volume, ranging from 14.9 percent in Allegheny to 19.8 percent in Washington. Butler dropped 5.6 percent.

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