September sales of existing homes fell 19% from the level recorded a year earlier to 5.04 million units as the median home price slid 4.2%, according to figures released by the National Association of Realtors.It was the slowest sales pace in nearly a decade. The number was so bad that it prompted RBS Greenwich Capital analyst Stephen Stanley to write: "We have mentally 'written off' the existing-home sales figures for the next month or two and are far more interested in whether home sales stabilize or even rally once the markets allow for a more normal lending situation." NAR senior economist Lawrence Yun called the decline "understandable," but noted that, "The good news is that mortgage availability has markedly improved in recent weeks with interest rates on jumbo loans falling, and more people are applying for safer and conforming [Federal Housing Administration] mortgage products." The NAR can be found online at http://www.realtor.org.

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