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Home Sales Up In October

Sales of existing homes increased 2.1 percent in October, rising to a near-record level after two monthly declines.

The increase, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.79 million from a rate of 4.69 million in September, leaves sales on track to set a record for all of 1998. The numbers were reported Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors.

Sales were the strongest since they hit a rate of 4.91 million in July, the most since the association began tracking them in 1968.

The association is projecting 4.75 million sales for the year, up 12.6 percent from 1997.

"Overall, the housing market is on a stable, straight track," said Realtors economist John Tuccillo. "The market we are looking at right now is probably going to remain the same through at least the early part of 1999."

Sales have been supported by plentiful jobs, large accumulated stock market gains, and low mortgage rates. Fixed-rate 30-year lows have averaged below 7 percent since mid-June.

Regionally, sales rose 6.9 percent in the South to a rate of 1.87 million after falling 5.4 percent in September, when Hurricane Georges kept prospective buyers inside in Louisiana, Mississippi, and elsewhere in the region.

Sales inched 0.8 percent higher in the Midwest to a 1.18 million rate. They fell 1.5 percent in the Northeast to a rate of 660,000 and 2.8 percent in the West to 1.09 million.

Nationally, the median price of an existing home, meaning half sold for more and half for less, was $130,900, up 5.2 percent from a year ago.

Written By Dave Skidmore

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