NEW YORK (Reuters) - Homebuilder sentiment ebbed in April for the first time in seven months as prospective buyers remained hesitant to pull the trigger, the National Association of Home Builders said on Monday.
The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market index slipped to 25 from 28 in March, shy of economists' expectations for the index to hold steady at 28.
Still, the index has gained 11 points since September 2011, reinforcing optimism the housing market is finding a bottom.
The index has a long way to go to the 50 mark that indicates more builders view market conditions as favorable than poor. The index has not been above 50 since April 2006.
"What we're seeing is essentially a pause in what had been a fairly rapid build-up in builder confidence that started last September," NAHB chief economist David Crowe said in a statement.
"This is partly because interest expressed by buyers in the past few months has yet to translate into expected sales activity, but is also reflective of the ongoing challenges that are slowing the housing recovery - particularly tight credit conditions for builders and buyers, competition from foreclosures and problems with obtaining accurate appraisals."
The single-family home sales component fell to 26 from 29. The gauge of single-family sales expectations for the next six months eased to 32 from 35, while prospective buyer traffic waned to 18 from 22.
(Reporting By Leah Schnurr; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)