Existing Home Sales Rose in August

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Sales of existing U.S. homes rose 2 percent in August to the second highest level on record, the National Association of Realtors (search) said Monday.

Sales of previously owned homes increased to a seasonally adjusted 7.29 million unit annual rate last month from July's downwardly revised 7.15 million unit pace, NAR said. That figure includes both single-family homes (search) and condominiums.

Hurricane Katrina (search) did have an impact on sales, but NAR said it would not be able to quantify the effect for several months.

Analysts had expected overall sales to fall to a 7.11 million unit annual pace from the originlly reported 7.16 million clip in July.

The national median home price rose to $220,000, up 15.8 percent from a year ago, the report showed. That was the largest annual increase in prices since July 1979.

The inventory of homes available for sale rose 3.5 percent to 2.86 million existing homes. August's level equates to 4.7 months' supply at the current sales pace.

Stubbornly low mortgage rates have helped sustain the rally in housing, creating robust demand that has driven prices up by double-digit percentages in some areas and led some analysts to worry that the market was a bubble set to burst.

Single-family home sales rose 1.9 percent to a 6.35 million unit pace from July's 6.23 million unit pace. Condo sales climbed 2.2 percent to a 942,000 unit rate from a 922,000 unit pace in July.

Sales of previously owned homes fell 0.4 percent in the South, but rose 5.6 percent in the West, 1.9 percent in the Midwest and 1.7 percent in the Northeast.