Sales of existing single-family homes fell 5.6% in June, following a 1.6% decline in May, a decent showing in the wake of federal tax credits for homebuyers expiring in the early spring.

National Association of Realtors (NAR) economists expect sales will slow as the impact of the tax credit wears off.

"Broadly speaking, sales closed after the homebuyer tax credit [expired] will be significantly lower," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. "Only when jobs are created at a sufficient pace will home sales return to sustainable healthy levels."

NAR reported Thursday morning that sales of previously owned single-family homes fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.7 million units from a 4.98 million rate in May. (The figures exclude condominiums and cooperatives.) The median existing home sales price was $187,200 in June, a 1.3% gain from a year ago.

A homebuyer had to sign a sales contract by April 30 to qualify for the tax credit and was required to complete the loan closing by June 30. Congress recently extended the closing date deadline to Sept. 30.

Barclays Capital said the new sales figures were close to its forecast (5.4 million units) but higher than the consensus (5.10 million). (Barclays' numbers include condos and co-ops.)

The Wall Street firm said it expects the tax credit to "continue to distort the headline reading until September of this year, when the deadline for closed contracts passes."

Regionally, the Northeast saw a sharp jump in home sales of 7.9%, although this was offset by declines in the Midwest (-7.5%), South (-6.5%), and West (-9.3%). The months' supply of homes also increased, to 8.9 from 8.3, showing a rise in inventories as sales moderated.

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