WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- Sales of existing U.S. homes rose in April and were 9.7 percent higher than in April 2012, a trade group in Washington said Wednesday.
The National Association of Realtors, which tracks sales of existing homes, said sales rose 0.6 percent from March to April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million homes, a slight increase from the upwardly revised rate of 4.94 million in March. The month's sales were also 9.7 percent higher than April 2012, NAR said.
NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said the housing market recovery was "robust," despite "tight access to credit and limited inventory." Sales would be "well above the 5 million unit pace" if those two conditions improved, he said.
The trade group has only recently begun to call the housing market comeback healthy. Buyer traffic has risen 30 percent from a year ago, "but sales are only about 10 percent higher," Yun said.
The total inventory of existing homes on the market rose 11.9 percent from March to 2.16 million, a 5.2-month supply at the current rate of sales.
The median sales price for existing homes rose on an annual basis for the 14th consecutive month -- the longest streak since June 2005 to May 2006, the association said.
The median price of $192,800 is 11 percent higher than April 2012, the trade group said.
Existing home sales rose 1.6 percent in the Northeast and dropped 3.4 percent in the Midwest from March to April. Existing home sales rose 2 percent from March in the South and 1.7 percent in the West.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday mortgage activity fell 9.8 percent last week with refinancing activity off sharply as long-term interest rates rose.
The association said mortgage activity fell 9.8 percent in the week while refinancing activity dropped 12 percent in the week ending Friday.
Interest rates for 30-year, fixed-rate conforming mortgages increased from 3.67 percent to 3.78 percent during the week. Points for 30-year conforming loans fell from 0.41 to 0.39.
"Mortgage rates increased to their highest level since March last week, leading to the largest single week drop in refinance applications this year," said MBA Vice President of Research and Economics Mike Fratantoni.
He said purchase activity declined during the week but was still running about 10 percent ahead of last year's pace.