The long-suffering housing market is showing new signs of life, with Americans buying more previously owned homes in April. The report is another hopeful sign the housing market is at long last improving.
"Prices rose strongly. The improvement in sales and prices is broad-based across all regions," said Walter Maloney of the National Association of Realtors. The realtors survey found that home sales rose 3.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million.
"Consumer confidence is up with more job creation - it's less than we'd like but nonetheless, steady job creation is creating demand, rents are rising, that's giving some incentive to buyers who've been on the sidelines of the rental market," Maloney told ABC News.
Total sales are well below the nearly 6 million per year considered normal for a healthy housing market.
"The thing that is working against the market is the abnormally tight credit conditions: that is a headwind," says Maloney. In other words, it's tougher for people to qualify for loans to take advantage of the record-low interest rates.
Distressed homes accounted for a smaller percentage of overall sales in April.
Another plus: "First-time homebuyers are slowly making their way back," said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets.
"That is still below the 40 percent-to-45 percent range during healthy times, but the highest in almost half a year."
Builders have grown more confident since last fall, in part because more people have expressed an interest in buying a home.
Shares in PulteGroup, KB Home and other big homebuilding firms rallied today on the stock market.
Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC NEWS Radio twitter.com/daviesabc