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Existing home sales hit highest level since 2009

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Sales of existing homes jumped to their highest level in nearly six years in May, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The 5.1 percent increase in May brought sales to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million. That’s 9 percent above the pace a year ago. Included in this total are sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condominums and co-ops.

“Solid sales gains were seen throughout the country in May as more homeowners listed their home for sale and therefore provided greater choices for buyers,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

“However, overall supply still remains tight, homes are selling fast and price growth in many markets continues to teeter at or near double-digit appreciation,” he said. “Without solid gains in new home construction, prices will likely stay elevated — even with higher mortgage rates above 4 percent.”

The median price for an existing home was $228,700, nearly 8 percent above what it was a year ago.

The number of first-time buyers rose to 32 percent, the highest level since September 2012.

That’s an “encouraging sign,” Yun said, “and is the result of multiple factors, including strong job gains among young adults, less expensive mortgage insurance and lenders offering low downpayment programs,” he said.