Total sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.1 million in the month, continuing what the NAR called "an uneven recovery" in the housing market. Sales of existing homes have risen in four of the past five months and in six of the past eight.
Sales were 6.3 percent below the 5.44 million level of March 2010.
NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said with employment on the rise and affordability high, "We're clearly on a recovery path." As the year progresses, however, "not every month will show a gain, primarily because some buyers are finding it too difficult to obtain a mortgage," he said.
For March, the national median price for all housing types was $159,600, a slight increase from a month ago, but down 5.9 percent from March 2010.
Total inventory of existing homes rose 1.5 percent at the end of the month to 3.55 million existing homes for sale, an 8.4-month supply at the current sales pace.
NAR said sales of existing homes rose 3.9 percent in the Northeast February to March. Sales in the Midwest increased 1 percent month-to-month. In the South, sales rose 8.2 percent. Sales in the West slipped 0.8 percent.