Mortgage lenders were unfazed by a report that sales of previously owned homes cooled in April from March's record rate.

"It's just been good for so long here. At some point of time, you're going to see numbers pale off a bit," said Paul Reid, executive vice president of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Like others, Mr. Reid attributed the slight drop to the mild winter. "That spurred an earlier market than normal," he said.

April sales of existing homes were off 2.5% from the March pace, to an annual rate of 4.77 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had expected a 2.9% decline, to 4.75 million.

The March pace-a record 4.89 million homes a year-was 2.5% above February's. And the April total was 18.1% higher than that of April 1997.

The Realtors expect resales to wind down over the course of the year and come in at 4.35 million units in all, 3.2% above last year's record.

"We expect a gradual downward turn through the year as economic growth slows, but we're still looking for very strong numbers," said John A. Tuccillo, the trade group's consulting economist.

The housing market is resilient, given the backdrop of a 28-year-low unemployment rate, strong income growth, high consumer confidence, and favorable interest rates. "I see nothing that will change that picture in 1998," said Robert Moles, chief executive officer at Century 21 Real Estate, a unit of Cendant Corp., Parsippany, N.J.

Mr. Moles said home sales will more than likely surpass last year's record performance.

Existing home sales declined in three regions in April-by 4.2% in the South, to a rate of 1.81 million units; 4.1% in the Northeast, to 710,000; and 2.4% in the Midwest, to 1.21 million. In the West resales rose 1.0%, to a 1.03 million-unit pace.

The Realtors also reported that the number of homes available for sale fell in April, to 2.19 million, from 2.49 million in March. The price of home resales averaged a record $159,700 in April, up from $157,200 in March, the group reported.

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