WASHINGTON – Existing home sales are down more than 15 percent in five states that have had the hottest housing markets, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.

Sales have dropped 22.2 percent year-over-year in Arizona, 19.2 percent in California, 18.2 percent in the District of Columbia, 15.7 percent in Florida and 15 percent in Nevada, the real estate group said.

Nationally, sales of existing homes fell 2.1 percent year-over-year in the first quarter. Sales in 26 states were above the levels of a year earlier. Sales fell in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

The hot markets now are New Mexico, Louisiana, Montana and Mississippi, with sales up more than 15 percent in each of those states.

Meanwhile, the industry group said median home-price appreciation has slowed in the nation’s 149 major metropolitan areas to 10.3 percent year-over-year from 13.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2005.

Of the 149 metro areas, median sales prices are up by double-digit percentages in 60 areas. Prices have fallen in 16 metro areas, including Boston.

The hottest cities remained hot. Home prices were up 38.4 percent year-over-year in Phoenix, slightly cooler than the 48.9 percent price gains seen in the fourth quarter. Prices were up 34 percent in Orlando, Fla., down from 42 percent in the fourth quarter.

Home price appreciation cooled in all four regions. In the West, prices are up 12 percent in the past year compared with an 18.9 percent gain the previous quarter. Prices are up 6.7 percent in the Midwest, 6.6 percent in the South and 6.6 percent in the Northeast.

(c) 2006, MarketWatch.com Inc.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-05-15-06 1641EDT

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