Existing-home sales kept up their recovery in July, rising 2.3% as the nation's housing recovery showed signs of acceleration and prices jumped nearly 10% from a year ago, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday.
Smaller inventories of homes for sale let sellers push prices higher, the association said. The average price of a new home rose 9.4% to $187,300.
The number of homes sold rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.4 million. The numbers missed economists' expectations of about 4.52 million home sales, according to Drew Matus, an economist at the investment bank UBS.
Economists are looking for the housing market to begin slowly to reverse its 30%-plus slide in prices, though most have not expected substantive price gains until at least 2013 or 2014.
"Mortgage interest rates have been at record lows this year while rents have been rising at faster rates,'' NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement. "`Combined, these factors are helping to unleash a pent-up demand. However, the market is constrained by unnecessarily tight lending standards and shrinking inventory supplies, so housing could easily be much stronger without these abnormal frictions."