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April 22, 2014 10:10 AM, EDT
Sales of Existing Homes Fall for Third Straight Month
Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg News

Sales of previously owned homes fell in March for the third consecutive month as rising prices and cold weather discouraged would-be buyers.

Closings, which typically take place a month or two after a contract is signed, fell 0.2% to a 4.59 million annual rate, the lowest level since July 2012, the National Association of Realtors reported April 22 in Washington.

The median forecast of 75 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for sales to slow to a 4.56 million annual rate.

Rising home prices have outpaced wage growth, putting ownership out of reach for some Americans. Mortgage rates, while still near historic lows, have been rising, and harsh winter weather in January and February probably prevented would-be new owners from venturing out to look for real estate.

“Sales are showing some lingering effects of the weather,” said Kevin Cummins, an economist at UBS Securities. “It’s probably going to take a couple more months until you see a bounce.”

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 4.5 million to 4.85 million. February’s pace was unrevised at 4.6 million.

“Sales may be stabilizing,” Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said as the figures were released. “I do expect some spring bounce in the upcoming months.”