NEW YORK (AP) — Home sales in the Northeast declined more than any other region in the country in April as job losses took their toll, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.

Northeast home sales fell almost 11 percent from April last year, and the median sales price dropped almost 10 percent to $237,400.

“The first quarter was the worst in terms of unemployment in the Northeast and certainly around the country,” said Michael Lynch, a regional economist with IHS Global Insight. “When people are losing their jobs at that rate, they’re not willing to invest in a new home.”

Nationally, sales of existing homes slipped 4.6 percent in April from the previous year, without adjusting for seasonal factors. The U.S. median sales price slid more than 15 percent to $170,200.

One reason prices in the Northeast are holding up better, Lynch noted, is because — with the exception of Providence, R.I., foreclosures aren’t making up the bulk of sales in the region like they are in the West, for example.

Home sales in all nine major Northeast cities fell in April, with seven recording double-digit declines. Meanwhile, median prices decreased across the region, except in Pittsburgh, according to The Associated Press-Re/Max Monthly Housing Report, also released Wednesday.

But sales surged from the previous month in every metro, according to the report, which analyzed sales transactions in nine Northeast metropolitan statistical areas filed by all real estate agents, regardless of company affiliation.

“Activity unquestioningly picked up in April and May from earlier this year,” said David Friedman, an agent with Coldwell Banker Preferred in Philadelphia.

At the lower end of the Philadelphia market, houses between $200,000 and $450,000, are getting the most interest, he said, mostly because of the new $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers that runs until Dec. 1.

“It’s starting to pique their interest now that the information is out,” Friedman said.

But the luxury home market continues to suffer, because loans for high-priced properties are hard to find. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have picked up the lion’s share of the mortgage market after the credit collapse, only hold or guarantee loans up to $729,750 in the country’s most expensive markets.

March sales in Philadelphia dropped more than a quarter from a year ago and the median price slid less than 7 percent to $205,000.

Sales in the other Pennsylvania metro, Pittsburgh, tumbled more than 19 percent, but its median price edged up roughly 2 percent to $125,000, the best performance in the region.

Homes priced under $300,000 are getting the most attention, said Coldwell Banker real estate agent John Adair.

“In the last two months, I had a few houses sell over the list price because of multiple offers,” Adair said.

His client, Matthew Main, accepted a $205,000 offer on his three-bedroom brick Colonial on Sunday after listing the house last Thursday for $209,500.

“It was incredible. In no way shape or form, did I expect to sell it within three days,” said Main, 28, who is buying a five-bedroom house for $279,000.

Main, a financial adviser, realized he’ll only shell out about $150 more a month on his mortgage payment because the new interest rate will be 4.65 percent, compared to the 6.25 rate on his current home loan. Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages have stayed below 5 percent for 10 straight weeks.

In the counties surrounding New York City, buyers are flooding in from Manhattan, said Sandra Lippman at Prudential Centennial Realty in Westchester County, N.Y. Many are parents looking to move to the suburbs for better public schools. Several of the desirable Manhattan elementary schools have long waiting lists this year and tuition for private schools is very expensive, Lippman said.

As a result, the lower end of the market there — which to New Yorkers means below $1 million — is selling quicker.

“It’s a very attractive time to buy if you can, if you don’t have to worry about selling first,” Lippman said.

Home sales in the suburban counties surrounding New York City — Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester counties — were off by 24 percent in April, according to the AP-Re/Max data. The median price lost nearly 13 percent to $370,000, while the supply of unsold homes dipped 4 percent during the month.

Next door in Passaic, N.J., home to many Manhattan commuters, April sales plunged 19 percent, while prices dropped more than 12.5 percent from a year ago to $315,000.

Further north in Providence, R.I., home sales activity looked better than earlier this year, said Re/Max real estate agent Julie Longtin, with anything under $300,000 moving off the sales block.

April sales there dipped 4 percent from a year ago, the best showing in the region, while prices tumbled 23 percent to $181,000, the largest decline in the Northeast. That was due mostly to the high volume of foreclosure sales there.

Foreclosures are decreasing, she noted, and the number of them coming onto the market is slowing, which could help put a floor under prices eventually.

However, Longtin noted, “May is slowing down.”


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