U.S. homebuyers flooded back into the real estate market in March, pushing up sales and prices at the start of the spring buying season.

The National Association of Realtors says sales of existing homes jumped 6.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.19 million.

Sales recovered after setting a weak pace in January and February, when an extremely cold and snow-filled winter cut into purchases. Relatively low mortgage rates and robust hiring has raised expectations that sales will improve after slipping slightly in 2014.

But the surge in sales has yet to cause a meaningful increase in listings. The market has just 4.6 months of supply, causing prices to rise faster than incomes.

Median home prices increased 7.8 percent over the past 12 months to $212,100.