Existing home sales decreased 3.1% in October to a seasonally adjusted 4.98 million-unit rate, the National Association of Realtors announced yesterday.

The sales drop to 4.98 million compared to the 5.000 million-unit pace predicted by Thomson Reuters’ poll of economists and followed a revised 4.7% rise to a 5.14 million-unit level in September, originally reported as a 5.5% rise to 5.18 million units.

On a year-over-year basis, sales overall were down 1.6% from a 5.06 million-unit sales pace last October.

“Many potential home buyers appear to have withdrawn from the market due to the stock market collapse and deteriorating economic conditions,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “We have favorable affordability conditions, but we need more than that to give buyers with jobs the confidence they need. This is why a housing stimulus is so critical now to encourage more buyers to draw down the inventory and stabilize home prices. Without home price stabilization, there will not be an economic recovery.”

Sales fell in all four regions of the country in October, decreasing 6.0% in the Midwest, 3.2% in the South, 1.6% in the West, and 1.2% in the Northeast.

Inventory levels fell 0.9% at the end of October, to 4.234 million existing homes for sale, representing a 10.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 10.0 months the previous month.

Meanwhile, the median existing home price was $183,300 in October, down 4.2% from September, when the median price was $191,400, and slid 11.3% year-over-year from a $206,700 level.

The average existing home price was $224,700 in October, off 4.4% from September, when the average price was $235,400 and dipped 11.9% year-over-year from a $255,100 level.

The national average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 6.20%, up from September’s 6.04%, NAR said. The rate was 6.38% in October 2007.

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