The pace of sales of existing homes in the United States fell 3.0 percent in March to a much lower-than-expected annual rate of 4.57 million units, the National Association of Realtors said on Thursday.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast home resales to slip to a 4.70 million-unit pace from a revised 4.71 million for February, which was initially reported as 4.72 million.

The inventory of existing homes for sale fell to 3.74 million from the 3.80 million overstock reported for February. The median national home price rose 4.2 percent to $175,200 from February, boosted by seasonal factors. However, prices fell 12.4 percent compared to the same period a year ago.