Results included $25.1 million of charges. A year earlier, the pretax writedowns totaled $33.4 million. The quarter also included a $20.4 million tax benefit.
For existing homes, sales nationally were 2.7 percent higher in January than December, and 5.03 percent above the same month in 2010, the National Association of Realtors reported.
But celebrating might be premature. Looking at the sources of these numbers, IHS Global Insight economist Patrick Newport observes: "Existing-home sales up again - perhaps?"
The reasons for the gain, as Newport suggests, are not signs of recovery: All-cash transactions because credit remains tight, higher investor market share because they have the cash and prices are low, and a heavy volume of distressed-home sales - short sales and foreclosures. These are not signs of a normal, healthy housing market.
Increases "all go hand in hand," said the National Association of Realtors' chief economist, Lawrence Yun.
"With tight credit standards, it's not surprising to see so much activity where cash is king and investors are taking advantage of conditions to purchase undervalued homes," Yun said.
Prices? Median prices are down 3.7 percent from a year ago, primarily because distressed homes account for 37 percent of the market share.
"There is no such thing as a free home, and with distressed properties making up such a large share of the demand, it is not surprising that prices continue to decline," said Joel L. Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisers in Holland, Bucks County.
In January, prices were the lowest in almost nine years.
What about the folks who have tightened the credit to which Yun referred?
Turmoil in the Middle East brought fixed rates down to 5 percent as oil prices rose and economic recovery appeared in jeopardy.
With lower rates, mortgage applications rose 13.2 percent last week from a two-year low the previous week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday.
The bulk of the weekly increase - 17.8 percent - was refinancing, pushing the refi market share to 65.7 percent of all applications.
Applications for loans to buy houses rose just 5.1 percent, are 6.9 percent lower than the same week in 2010, and constitute slightly more than a third of the market.
Existing-home sales in the eight-county Philadelphia region fell almost 25 percent in January from December and were down 3.3 percent from the same month in 2010.
Data from Prudential Fox & Roach HomExpert Report also show that median home prices were down 2.4 percent from January 2010 - to $200,000 from $205,000.
Moody's Analytics' chief economist, Mark Zandi, notes four variables that determine the pace of recovery across markets: foreclosures as a share of sales, the degree to which the market was overbuilt during the boom, the extent to which housing was overvalued, and the strength of the job market.
For the Philadelphia region, economist Kevin Gillen of Econsult Inc. said oversupply was "the least of our problems," and recent declines in Center City's for-sale condo inventory "are a meaningful improvement" in this market segment's fundamentals.
Regional foreclosure sales, though growing, should remain below the national average, he said.
"Prices here have fallen an average of 16 percent from the peak during the boom, and I don't expect them to fall by more than another 5 to 8 percent," Gillen said.
Expect it in the second half of this year, after some further downward moderations in house prices in the first half.
"However, expect the recovery to be slow, long, and tepid," Gillen said.
Contact real estate writer Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472, email@example.com, or Twitter: @alheavens.