The National Association of Realtors today reported that cheaper home prices and borrowing costs helped push sales of existing homes higher in September.

According to NAR, existing-home sales (including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops) rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.18 million units last month, up 5.5 percent from August and up 1.4 percent from September 2007.

The National Association of Realtors today reported that cheaper home prices and borrowing costs helped push sales of existing homes higher in September.

According to NAR, existing-home sales (including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops) rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.18 million units last month, up 5.5 percent from August and up 1.4 percent from September 2007.

"Compared to a fairly small share of foreclosures or short sales a year ago, distressed sales are currently 35 to 40 percent of transactions," said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, in a statement. "These are pulling the median price down because many are being sold at discounted prices. The current market is not being dominated by speculative investors. Rather, 80 percent of current buyers are purchasing a primary residence, which is a bit higher than historic norms."

While the average rate for a 30-year, conventional fixed-rate mortgage dipped from 6.48 percent in August to 6.04 percent in September, the national median existing-home price for all housing types fell 9 percent from a year ago to $191,600.

According to NAR, sales of existing homes jumped the most in the West (up 16.8 percent from August and up 34.4 percent from September 2007) and were up in all regions except for the Northeast where sales were down 1.2 percent from August and 7.7 percent from a year ago.

Priced dropped the most in the West (down 18.5 percent year-over-year to $253,600) and fell the least in the South (down 4.1 percent year-over-year to $167,200).

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