New- and existing-home sales will both decline this year but should post their second-best totals on record, according to the National Association of Realtors.The NAR is projecting 5.85 million resales and 1.01 million new-home sales in 2004, compared with last year's record estimated totals of 6.07 million and 1.08 million, respectively, said David Lereah, the association's chief economist. He is forecasting that housing starts will total 1.71 million units in 2004, down from an estimated 1.84 million in 2003, the best performance since 1978. The NAR is projecting that the 30-year fixed mortgage rate will average 6.5% this year and that the gross domestic product will grow 4.7%. "On the heels of three consecutive record years for home sales, the uptick in mortgage interest rates will offset some of the benefits of an improving economy," Mr. Lereah said. "However, the impact will be fairly minimal, because the fundamental conditions for a strong housing market remain -- a growing number of households, an improving job market, and generally good affordability conditions." The NAR can be found on the Internet at http://realtor.org.

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