Existing Home Sales Suggest 'Soft Landing'

March's slight rise in sales of existing homes, following a substantial rebound in February, "is additional evidence that we're experiencing a soft landing" as U.S. housing comes down from stratospheric highs, says David Lereah, chief economist for the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors.

Sales of exiting single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums and co-ops were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.92 million units last month, an increase of three-tenths percent from February's 6.9 million rate. However, this past March's rate was seven-tenths of a percentage point below the 6.97 million-unit rate of March 2005.

"We may see some minor slowing in home sales as interest rates rise, but the market clearly is stabilizing," says Lereah, who expects 2006 to be the third best year for home sales.

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