U.S. existing home sales plunge; new rules seen as drag

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U.S. existing home sales plunge; new rules seen as drag


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. home resales posted their sharpest drop in five years in November, a potential warning sign for the health of the U.S. economy although new regulations on paperwork for home purchases may have driven the decline.

The National Association of Realtors said on Tuesday existing home sales plunged 10.5 percent to an annual rate of4.76 million units. That was the sharpest decline since July 2010. October's sales pace was revised slightly lower to 5.32 million units.

Housing has been providing a sizable boost to U.S. economic growth this year as a strengthening labor market and low interest rates have helped young adults to leave their parents' homes.

Economists had forecast sales rising to a rate of 5.35 million units last month.

NAR economist Lawrence Yun said most of November's decline was likely due to regulations that came into effect in October aimed at simplifying paperwork for home purchasing. Yun said it appeared lenders and closing companies were being cautious about using the new mandated paperwork.

Also potentially weighing on home sales, the median price for a U.S. existing home rose to $220,300 in November, up 6.3 percent from the same month in 2014. Yun said the steep rise in prices and shrinking inventories could also be constraining home purchases.

Sales dropped across the country, down 13.9 percent in the West, 6.2 percent in the South, 15.4 percent in the Midwest and 9.2 percent in the Northeast