Sales of existing single-family homes in North Texas fell in March for the 10th straight month compared with a year ago, and for the first time in several months the median home price also declined.
Area home builders are also starting construction on fewer single-family homes since a federal home-buying tax credit expired.
Homes sales were down 15 percent from March 2010, the Texas A&M Real Estate Center said Thursday. Sales for the first three months of the year were down 13 percent compared with the first quarter 2010, figures show.
The median home price dropped 2 percent last month, to $140,000. Half of all homes cost more than the median, and half cost less.
Also Thursday, CoreLogic, a real estate research firm, said its February Home Price Index showed U.S. home prices declining for the seventh month in a row, dropping 6.7 percent from a year earlier. In Tarrant County, home prices dropped 3.8 percent in February from a year earlier, CoreLogic said.
Market experts had expected homes sales to be down in March because the data is being compared to a month last year when the federal tax break was still being offered to first-time home buyers. Experts don't expect home sales to start inching back up until later this year.
In March, 5,286 existing homes were sold in the 29-county North Texas region. The Real Estate Center compiles data from the industry-run North Texas Real Estate Information Systems.
Among Tarrant area markets, excluding the small downtown market, sales of existing homes fell the most in south Fort Worth/Forest Hill, where they declined 73 percent. Roanoke led markets showing sales increases, rising 58 percent.
Housing starts in Dallas-Fort Worth were also down for the first quarter, according to Dallas-based Residential Strategies. Between January and March, builders started construction on 3,219 homes, 22.2 percent fewer than in the same quarter of 2010, the company said Thursday.
"Home construction activity was artificially inflated a year ago due to the housing tax credit," said Ted Wilson, principal with Residential Strategies. "Despite the decline, we believe that the market is currently moving in a positive, sustainable direction stemming from stronger economic and employment growth."
Construction starts peaked in the second quarter of 2010 at 4,487, figures show. Most of the decline since came in homes priced under $200,000, the price range generally sought by first-time home buyers, Residential Strategies said.
"Several buyers bought ahead of their normal purchasing cycle when the tax credit became available," Wilson said. Closings of sales of new homes also declined during the quarter, falling 5.1 percent, to 3,190.
In Tarrant County, the supply of new homes declined 22 percent, to 2,674 homes at the end of the first quarter, compared with 3,442 homes at the end of the first quarter in 2010, Residential Strategies said.