ECONOMY

US existing home sales drop 1.8 percent in August; slowdown in investors buying homes

In this Thursday, May 29, 2014 photo, prospective buyer Mary Tuttle, right, checks out antique lighting fixtures while looking at a home with real estate broker Nancy Dowson, left, with Keller Williams Realty, in Miami Shores, Fla. The National Association of Realtors reports, on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, on sales of existing homes in August. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this Thursday, May 29, 2014 photo, prospective buyer Mary Tuttle, right, checks out antique lighting fixtures while looking at a home with real estate broker Nancy Dowson, left, with Keller Williams Realty, in Miami Shores, Fla. The National Association of Realtors reports, on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, on sales of existing homes in August. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)  (The Associated Press)

Fewer Americans bought homes in August, as investors retreated from real estate and first-time buyers remained scarce.

The National Association of Realtors says sales of existing homes fell 1.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.05 million. That snaps a four-month streak of gains. August sales are down from a July rate of 5.14 million, a figure that was revised slightly downward.

Much of the slowdown came from the exodus of investors, who had been buying properties in the aftermath of the housing bust and recession. Investors accounted for just 12 percent of August purchases, compared to 17 percent a year earlier.

Overall, the pace of home sales has dropped 5.3 percent year-over-year.

Rising prices through much of 2013 and weak income growth priced out many would-be buyers.