April 25, 2007 -- Sales of existing homes fell by 8.4 percent in March, the largest decline in 18 years, while sales of new homes picked up by 2.6 percent, according to a pair of reports this week.

Following three months of gains, the sharp declines in existing home sales were blamed on bad weather and troubles in the subprime mortgage market, the National Association of Realtors reported on Tuesday.

There were 3.75 million existing homes left on the market in March, representing a 7.3-month supply at the current sales rate. Sales were down by 11.3 percent below the same period last year, while median prices have dropped by 0.3 percent to $217,000.

By contrast, sales of new single-family rose by 2.6 percent in March to an annual rate of 858,000, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday.

Despite the gains, sales of new homes were 23.5 percent below the same period last year, the report said.

Median prices remained steady at $254,000 with about 545,000 homes left on the market at the end of the month, representing a 7.8 month supply at the current the sales rate.

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