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By Kevin Kastner, Sara Haire and Holly Stokes
     WASHINGTON (MNI) - Home resales rose by 3.0% in February to an annual rate
of 5.54 million, well ahead of expectations for a slight gain to a 5.40 million
pace and above the 5.51 million level in 2017, data released by the National
Association of Realtors reported Wednesday showed.
     Still, the first quarter average, at 5.46 million, stands below the fourth
quarter average of 5.59 million, a softer start to 2018. January sales were
unrevised at the previously 5.38 million annual rate.
     NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun noted again to reporters that tight supply
continued to restrain sales and boost prices, and that increased building,
especially of condos, is needed.
     Single-family home sales rose 4.2% from January and were up 1.8% from a
year ago, while condo sales were down 6.5% from January and down 4.9% from a
year ago. Yun said that condos are one way for new buyers to start home
ownership.  
     --SUPPLY REMAINS SOFT
     The number of housing units available for sale rose 4.6% in February to a
total of 1.59 million houses, keeping the months supply at 3.4 months at the
current sales pace. Yun noted that this was below the 3.8 months supply a year
ago and well below the 6.0 months considered normal. 
     --REGIONAL DATA MIXED
     Sales rose solidly in the South (+6.6%) and West (+11.4%) regions, more
than offsetting declines in the Northeast (-12.3%) and Midwest (-2.4%) regions.
     --PRICES SHARPLY HIGHER
     February's national median price of $241,700 was up 5.9% from a year
earlier, a sign of continued sharp acceleration.
--MNI Washington Bureau; tel: +1 202-371-2121; email: kevin.kastner@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: MAUDS$,M$U$$$]