Sales of previously occupied homes plunged last month to the lowest level in 15 years, despite the lowest mortgage rates in decades and bargain prices in many areas.
July's sales fell by more than 27 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.83 million, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. It was the largest monthly drop on records dating back to 1968, and sharp declines were recorded in all regions of the country.
The plunge in home sales also magnified fears about the broader economy.
"The housing market is undermining the already faltering wider economic recovery," said Paul Dales, U.S. economist with Capital Economics. "With the increasingly inevitable double-dip in prices yet to come, things could yet get a lot worse."
Sales were particularly weak among homes in the lower- to mid-priced ranges. For example, in the Midwest, homes priced between $100,000 and $250,000 tumbled nearly 47 percent.
As sales have slowed, the inventory of unsold homes on the market grew to nearly 4 million in July. That's a 12.5 month supply at the current sales pace, the highest level in more than a decade. It compares with a healthy level of about six months.