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Existing-home sales increased in August

One day can make a big difference in housing industry metrics.

About 25 hours after the release of a disappointing housing starts report, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said existing-home sales for August increased 7.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million.

The August figure is 18.6% higher than the 4.24 million pace recorded in August 2010.

"Some of the improvement in August may result from sales that were delayed in preceding months, but favorable affordability conditions and rising rents are underlying motivations,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Investors were more active in absorbing foreclosed properties. In additional to bargain hunting, some investors are in the market to hedge against higher inflation.”

Yun added that aberrations in housing data are possible over the coming months, as parts of the country recover from storm damage that may have disrupted closings.

NAR president Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., said market affordability is a positive. But he pointed to some of the challenges to closing deals. “The biggest factors keeping home sales from a healthy recovery are mortgages being denied to creditworthy buyers, and appraised valuations below the negotiated price," Phipps said. 

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $168,300 in August, which is 5.1% below August 2010. Distressed homes -- foreclosures and short sales typically sold at deep discounts -- accounted for 31% of sales in August, compared with 29% in July and 34% in August 2010.

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