Sales of existing homes slipped from August to September but were still up strongly from a year ago — a sign that the national housing market is finding solid ground, the National Association of Realtors said today.

At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.75 million, sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condos and co-ops were down 1.7 percent from August to September, but up 11 percent from a year ago.

September sales of existing homes were up 11 percent from last September with a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.75 million, which represents a slight dip of 1.7 percent from August’s upwardly revised rate of 4.83 million.

The 2.32 million homes on the market at the end of September represented a 5.9-month supply, down from 8.1 months a year ago. Many analysts view a six-month supply of housing as an even balance between buyer and seller demand.

Thanks to tight inventories, the national median home price was up 11.3 percent to $183,900 from a year ago, the seventh month in a row of annual increases and the longest stretch of annual increases in six years.

"We’re experiencing a genuine recovery," said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, in a statement. "More people are attempting to buy homes than are able to qualify for mortgages, and recent price increases are not deterring buyer interest," he said.

Low inventory will be a temporary issue, said Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist. "Rising prices will get some homeowners back above water and willing to sell their homes, and tight inventory will encourage builders to keep ramping up new construction, bringing more new homes to market," he said.

First-time buyers accounted for 32 percent of purchasers in September, up from 31 percent in August.

Foreclosures and short sales sold for 21 percent below market value, on average, and accounted for 24 percent of September’s sales.

All-cash deals accounted for 28 percent of September’s sales — up a percentage point from August and down two from last September.

Existing-home sales, September 2012

Seasonally adjusted annual rate 4.75 million
% change from September 2011 11.0%
% change from August 2012 -1.7%
National median price $183,900
% change from September 2011 11.3%
Unsold inventory (months’ supply) 5.9
Share of all-cash buyers 28%
Share of investor buyers 18%
Share of first-time buyers 32%
Share of distressed sales 24%

Source: National Association of Realtors

All U.S. regions saw existing-home sales and prices rise in September from a year ago.

As was the case in August, the Midwest led the way in home sales with a 19.6 percent year-over-year increase to an annual rate of 1.1 million sales. The median price in the Midwest also rose in September from a year ago, up 7 percent to $145,200.

The South saw sales jump 14.2 percent from last September to an annual rate of 1.93 million. Median prices jumped, too, to 13.1 percent from last September to $163,600.

Home sales rose 7.3 in the Northeast on an annual basis to a rate of 590,000. Median prices in the region rose 4.1 percent to $238,700.

The West experienced a slight 0.9 percent yearly increase in home sales to 1.13 million, but saw the largest yearly median price jump of any region, 18.4 percent to $246,300, in September.

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