Home Sales Rise 2.1 Percent

ALEX VEIGA and CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER | The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. sales of previously occupied homes rose solidly in October, helped by improvement in the job market and record-low mortgage rates.

The increase along with a jump in homebuilder confidence this month suggests the housing market continues to recover.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that sales rose 2.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.79 million. That’s up from 4.69 million in September, which was revised lower.

The sales pace is roughly 11 percent higher than a year ago. But it remains below the more than 5.5 million that economists consider consistent with a healthy market.

As the economy slowly recovers, more people have started looking to buy homes or rent apartments. Prices are steadily climbing, while mortgage rates have been low all year. At the same time, rents are rising, making the purchase of a single-family home or condominium more attractive.

“Altogether, the report is encouraging,” said Michael Gapen, an economist at Barclays Capital. “Our view is that housing is in a recovery phase,” he added, though it will be restrained by limited credit and modest job gains.

The Realtors’ group said Superstorm Sandy delayed some sales of previously occupied homes in the Northeast. Sales fell 1.7 percent there, the only region to show a decline. Those sales will likely be completed in future months, the group said.

The median price for previously occupied homes increased 11.1 percent from a year ago to $178,600, the Realtors’ said.

A decline in the number of homes available for sale is helping push prices higher. There were only 2.14 million homes available for sale at the end of the month, the lowest supply in 10 years.

Prices are also benefiting from the mix of homes being sold. Sales of homes priced at $500,000 and above have jumped more than 40 percent in the past year. Sales of homes and condominiums that cost less than $100,000 fell 0.6 percent.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.