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March home sales figures are mixed

Southwest sees spike over ’08; national numbers down

Homebuyers shrugged off economic worries and pounced on sharply discounted foreclosed homes in California, Nevada and Arizona, driving up sales last month in the West, according to two reports released Thursday.

A total of 89,000 existing homes and condos were sold in March in the 13-state region. Sales were up nearly 22 percent from the same month last year, without adjusting for seasonal factors, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Demand for foreclosed homes and other distressed properties pulled down the region’s median sales price by 11 percent to $252,400, the association said.

Nationally, existing home sales dropped 4 percent from March last year, while the U.S. median home price declined 12 percent to $175,200.

The surge in sales was centered mainly in the Southwest – a hotbed of home price appreciation during the housing boom that has been leading median home price declines the last two years. Bank-owned properties have flooded many markets in California, Arizona and Nevada, fueling the home price declines, but stoking sales.

Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco were the only major metros in the West to register an increase in home sales last month, according to the Associated Press-Re/Max Monthly Housing Report, released Thursday.

Prices rose in only one Western market: Anchorage, Alaska. The median price there climbed nearly 8 percent to $242,500.

Elsewhere in the region, sales fell last month in Seattle, Honolulu, Portland, Albuquerque, N.M., Denver, Boise, Anchorage and Billings.

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