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U.S. home sales and prices continue climb, extending recovery

Sales of American homes surged again last month to their fastest pace in nearly four years, leading median prices to jump to within 7 percent of their 2006 peak, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.

Sales of previously owned homes, townhomes and condos across the country climbed 17 percent last month over July 2012, boosting hopes for a continued recovery. July was the 25th month in a row that sales showed year-over-year growth.

Median sale prices jumped to $213,500, a 14 percent jump over last year and the eighth month in a row that prices rose at double-digit rates. Two years ago, median prices were 25 percent below their peak.

An improving job market, resurgent property values and low-but-growing mortgage rates have pushed once-reluctant buyers off the sidelines, said Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun.

But economists fear increasing prices and rising loan rates could price many out of the market. Mortgage rates for a 30-year fixed loan jumped last month to 4.37 percent, their highest point in two years.

Though the number of U.S. homes for sale rose 5 percent last month, it remained 5 percent below July 2012. Tight supplies, Yun said, would bring "above-normal price growth for the foreseeable future."

First-time buyers bought 29 percent of the homes sold last month, down from 34 percent in July 2012, Realtors said. All-cash deals from investors and wealthy buyers accounted for 31 percent of all home sales.

Tampa Bay's median sale price for a single-family home last month jumped 26 percent year-over-year to about $170,000, Multiple Listing Service data show.

Though prices here have climbed since plummeting to $107,500 in early 2011, they remain 30 percent below their 2006 peak of $245,000.

Florida housing data from last month, typically released alongside national numbers, was not available due to a reporting flaw, Realtors said late Wednesday.

Contact Drew Harwell at dharwell@tampabay.com.

U.S. home sales and prices continue climb, extending recovery 08/21/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 9:23pm]

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