Housing on the Mend, Ever So Gradually

By FLOYD NORRIS

ONE way to tell the housing market is beginning to show signs of health would be that builders of new homes are selling more houses than banks do.

We are not there yet, but the gap is narrowing, even as overall home sales slow.

According to calculations by Hanley Wood, a real estate research firm whose Metrostudy division studies deed transfers in about 95 percent of the United States, the areas it covered reported sales of about 74,000 new single-family homes in the first quarter of this year. During the same period, banks sold about twice that number of homes.

The bank sales — known in the industry as real estate owned, or R.E.O. — are of homes that were foreclosed upon or transferred to the mortgage holder without going through the formal foreclosure process.

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