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(MCT)—Sales of existing homes are strengthening and prices continue to rise, stoking confidence in the housing market’s recovery.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, resales of single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums and co-ops grew 2.3 percent in July from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million. The measure took an unexpected fall in June.

Resales jumped 10.4 percent compared with the same month last year. Economists at the association believe sales could reach 5 million next year.

Nationwide, prices were on a tear, with the median rising 9.4 percent from a year ago to $187,300 last month. The increase is the largest since a 10.2 percent boost in January 2006.

Demand is stronger due to low mortgage interest rates and rising rents, according to Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist.

But “the market is constrained by unnecessarily tight lending standards and shrinking inventory supplies, so housing could easily be much stronger without these abnormal frictions,” Yun said in a statement.

Though first-time buyers made up more than a third of resale clients, in normal housing conditions they’d constitute 40 percent. Many are still being pushed out by investors making all-cash offers, even though the ranks of such buyers are shrinking .

Distressed homes, which include foreclosures and short sales, made up 24 percent of sales in July, down from a quarter the previous month and nearly 30 percent a year earlier.

The median price of a single-family home was $188,100, up 9.6 percent from the same period in 2011. Sales of such properties rose 9.9 percent over the same period to an annual rate of 3.98 million.

©2012 Los Angeles Times
Distributed by MCT Information Services