On the same weekend as new-home builders rolled out new and dramatic incentives for buyers, the National Association of Realtors released existing-home sales numbers that indicate the continuing weakness in the real estate market.

According to the association, existing-home sales in April slid 1.0 percent compared to the previous month for a seasonally adjusted pace of 4.89 million homes. On an annual basis, that represents a 17.5 percent drop in numbers of sales of existing single-family homes, co-ops, and condos. 

Unfortunately for builders, inventories of existing homes remain extensive: 11.2 months’ supply, which is the highest level in the past year.

Prices for existing homes also took a dive, falling 8.0 percent to a median value of $202,300 in April.

Richard Gaylord, president of the association and a broker in Long Beach, Calif., said in a statement that home sales should improve, thanks to a slight loosening of today’s current tight mortgage standards. “In the past week, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae announced that they were eliminating their ‘declining market’ policies, effective June 1,” Gaylord said. “This means consumers across the country will have access to safe, affordable financing with down payments of only 5 percent on most mortgages, with 100 percent financing available on some loan products, and we could see an upturn in home sales this summer.”

For more information, visit http://www.realtor.org/press_room/news_releases/2008/ehs_april08_ease.

Alison Rice is senior editor, online, for BUILDER magazine.