Median house prices in nearly half the covered metropolitan statistical areas were lower in the fourth quarter than they were a year earlier, and the sales of existing homes were down in most states, according to the National Association of Realtors.The NAR's fourth-quarter metro area home price report shows that 73 of 149 MSAs experienced price declines in median existing-home prices, while 71 had increases and five were unchanged. The NAR also reported that the national median resale price stood at $219,300 in the fourth quarter, down 2.7% from $225,300 a year earlier. "This information confirms 2006 was the year of contraction, and hopefully the fourth quarter was the bottom of the current business cycle," said NAR chief economist David Lereah. "Home sales are leveling at historically high levels, and examination of data within the quarter shows home prices stabilizing toward the end." The NAR can be found on the Web at http:/www./realtor.org.

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