Housing activity hampered by winter weather

NEW YORK — Hampered in part by severe winter storms that raged through much of the nation, housing activity was broadly held in check during January, with sales of new and existing homes both slipping, while housing starts continued their recent climb.

Sales of generally lower-priced existing homes, by far the largest segment of the market, declined for a second straight month in January, slipping 0.1 percent, to 6.8 million units, following a 2.4 percent decline in December. Sales of single-family homes declined even further, but the drop there "was offset by a record monthly level of condo sales, which just came off its ninth consecutive record year," said David Lereah, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors.

With demand for existing homes still strong, the national median price in January jumped 10.5 percent from year-before levels, to $189,000 from $171,000.

Sales of costlier new homes, hobbled by winter storms, tumbled 9.2 percent in January, to 1.1 million from 1.2 million units, giving up all of the 5.6 percent increase recorded in December.

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