Sales of previously owned homes fell in October amid weak demand and concerns about the foreclosure process, putting sales for 2010 on pace to close at their lowest level in 13 years.
Existing-home sales declined to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.43 million units last month, down 2.2% from September, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday.
The figures provide the first sign of the impact that suspensions of foreclosed property sales have had on the housing market. Several banks halted those sales in late September to address questions about the integrity of the foreclosure process.
.Housing markets across the country have been fueled by sales of bank-owned properties, and delays had prompted fears of a new round of aftershocks for battered housing markets.
“To the extent people had any concern about being able to get clear title, they’re going to stand back on distressed properties,” said Douglas Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae. He said foreclosure delays were one of many factors that justified the mortgage company’s “continued view of weak demand.”
Still, foreclosures and other distressed sales accounted for 34% of all sales last month, compared with 35% in September, according to a NAR survey of real-estate agents.
Ivy Zelman, chief executive of research firm Zelman & Associates Inc., said the foreclosure suspensions had contributed “modestly” to October’s decline and said she expected a similar impact in November.