Sales of previously owned homes rose for the fourth straight month in July — a streak that hasn’t occurred since June 2004, the National Association of Realtors reported today.

The pace of resale home sales rose 7.2 percent from June to July and 5 percent compared to July 2008, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.24 million units — this monthly rise is a record for association data dating back to 1999.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate is a projection of a monthly sales total over a 12-month period, adjusted to account for typically seasonally fluctuations in sales activity.

The median resale home price dropped 15.1 percent in July compared to the same month last year, and the association reported that distressed homes "continue to weigh down the median price."

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the association, said in a statement that demand is strong with falling prices in some market areas.

"Because price-to-income ratios have fallen below historical trends, there are more all-cash offers. In some recovering markets like San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Orlando, the demand for foreclosed and lower-priced homes has spiked, and a lack of inventory is becoming a common complaint."

The First-time Home Buyer Tax Credit is also helping to boost sales, association President Charles McMillan said in a statement.

Regionally, the median price dropped 28 percent in the West, 15 percent in the Northeast, 7.1 pecent in the South and 5.9 percent in the Midwest in July 2009 compared to the same month last year, NAR reported.

The sales rate, meanwhile, rose an estimated 8 percent in the Midwest, 5.4 percent in the South, 3.3 percent in the Northeast and 1.8 percent in the West year-over-year in July and rose 13.4 percent in the Northeast, 10.9 percent in the Midwest and 7.1 percent in the South while dropping 1.7 percent in the West in July 2009 compared to June 2009.

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