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HIGH MORTGAGE RATES HOLD HOME SALES DOWN

SHARE HIGH MORTGAGE RATES HOLD HOME SALES DOWN

Relatively high mortgage interest rates held sales of existing homes in March to their February rate, the lowest in eight months, a real estate trade group reports.

The National Association of Realtors said resales of single-family homes totaled a seasonally adjusted 3.40 million units, unchanged from the number of sales in February.It was the lowest since a 3.38 million rate last July but one that the Realtors chief economist, John Tuccillo, said was sustainable for the rest of the year.

According to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgages averaged between 10.23 percent and 10.22 percent during March, high when compared to the single-digit rates at the end of 1989.

The Realtors said the high rates had a dual effect on the existing home market. In some cases, the group said, consumer uncertainty triggered purchases by prospective buyers fearing higher rates in the future while it curbed sales by others hoping for lower rates in the months ahead.

"The rate-watchers who are making their move now tend to be in less expensive markets," said Realtors President Norman D. Flynn. "Those who are holding back in hopes of rate declines tend to be in the higher-priced markets."