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Realtors group says it overestimated home sales for 3 years

By Alejandro Lazo, Chicago Tribune –

LOS ANGELES — A national real estate group sharply revised down the number of homes it calculated were sold from 2007 to 2010, revealing a much weaker housing market than had been previously estimated.

In 2010, for instance, the National Association of Realtors revised its estimate of home sales 14.6 percent lower than what it had previously reported — to about 4.2 million homes sold that year.

From 2007 to 2010, sales and inventory as reported by the group were downwardly revised by 14.3 percent, the group said on Wednesday. The group overstated sales during that period by about 3.5 million units, according to the Associated Press.

The drop was due to changes in the way the U.S. Census Bureau collects data and some sales being counted twice. Roughly half the revisions resulted from a decrease in people selling their own homes and instead turning to real estate agents as the housing market turned bleak in 2007, the group said.

Homes sold by owners are typically not counted by the local listing services tracked by the national real estate group. So when a greater share of home sellers than usual began using agents who use those listing services, that artificially increased the final home sale numbers, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the group, said in a statement.

The revisions underscore a lack of data on the housing market. There is no government tally of home sales nationally; officials rely instead on private real estate groups to provide sales numbers. The government does publish an estimate of new home sales and starts.

The revised figures were checked by government agencies and by the Santa Ana, Calif., firm CoreLogic, which first discovered the discrepancies in the real estate group’s figures earlier this year.

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