WASHINGTON, March 21 (UPI) -- A trade group in Washington said 20 months of continuous year-over-year gains in home sales qualified the housing market recovery to be labeled "healthy."
"February existing-home sales and prices affirm a healthy recovery is underway," said the National Association of Realtors, which tracks sales of existing homes.
U.S. sales of existing homes rose 0.8 percent in February over January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million units from an upwardly revised annual rate of 4.94 million in January.
Sales for the month were 10.2 percent above the 4.52 million annual rate from February 2012, NAR said.
"Job growth in the improving economy and pent-up demand are causing both home sales and rental leasing to rise. Though home prices are rising much faster than rents, historically low mortgage rates are still making home purchases affordable," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.
"The only headwinds are limited housing inventory, which varies greatly around the country, and credit conditions that remain too restrictive," Yun said.
The median sales price for existing homes rose on an annual basis for the 12th consecutive month -- the longest streak since June 2005 to May 2006, the association said.
The median price of $173,600 is 11.6 percent higher than in February 2012, the trade group said.
The total inventory of existing homes on the market rose 9.6 percent from January to 1.94 million, a 4.7-month supply at the current rate of sales.