U.S. Home Sales Seen Dropping First Time in Four Years

Sales of new and existing homes in the U.S. will fall in 2014 for the first time in four years, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a forecast today.

The MBA lowered its outlook to 5.28 million homes -- a decline of 4.1 percent from the previous year. The industry group also said mortgage lending for purchases would total $595 billion this year, down 8.7 percent from 2013, and the first retreat in three years, according to today’s MBA projection.

Rising home prices and stagnant wages make it difficult for Americans to get mortgages amid tight credit standards. The median price of an existing home gained 11.5 percent last year, second only to the 12 percent gain in 2005, the highest on record, according to the National Association of Realtors. The median U.S. household income rose less than 1 percent in 2013, according to data from Sentier Research LLC in Annapolis, Maryland.

“Even though we’re technically in a recovery, household income is lower now than it was in the recession,” said Gordon Green, a Sentier partner who formerly directed the Census Bureau office that compiles wage statistics. “It makes it a lot harder to buy a house.”

(An earlier version of this story corrected the volume forecast in second paragraph.)

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