Existing-home sales rose strongly in July, with the median price maintaining double-digit year-over-year increases, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 6.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million in July from a downwardly revised 5.06 million in June, and are 17.2 percent above the 4.60 million-unit pace in July 2012; sales have remained above year-ago levels for 25 months. “Mortgage interest rates are at the highest level in two years, pushing some buyers off the sidelines,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “The initial rise in interest rates provided strong incentive for closing deals. However, further rate increases will diminish the pool of eligible buyers.” Despite higher mortgage interest rates, Yun identified compensating factors that can sustain a continued recovery. “Although housing affordability conditions will become less attractive, jobs are being added to the economy, and mortgage underwriting standards should normalize over time from current stringent conditions as default rates fall.” According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.37 percent in July from 4.07 percent in June, and is the highest since July 2011 when it was 4.55 percent; the rate was 3.55 percent in July 2012. Total housing inventory at the end of July rose 5.6 percent to 2.28 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.1-month supply at the current sales pace, unchanged from June. Listed inventory is 5.0 percent below a year ago, when there was a 6.3-month supply. “Tight inventory in many areas means above-normal price growth for the foreseeable future,” Yun said. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $213,500 in July, which is 13.7 percent above July 2012. This marks 17 consecutive months of year-over-year price increases, which last occurred from January 2005 to May 2006. The median price has risen at double-digit rates for the past eight months, and is now 7.3 percent below the all-time record of $230,400 in July 2006. Two years ago, the median price was 25.7 percent below the peak. Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales – accounted for 15 percent of July sales, the same as in June and matching the lowest share since monthly tracking began in October 2008; they were 24 percent in July 2012. Continuing declines in the share of distressed sales account for some of the price gain. Nine percent of July sales were foreclosures, and 6 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 16 percent below market value in July, while short sales were discounted 12 percent. The median time on market for all homes was 42 days in July, up from 37 days in June, but is 39 percent faster than the 69 days on market in July 2012. Short sales were on the market for a median of 72 days, while foreclosures typically sold in 50 days and non-distressed homes took 40 days. Forty-five percent of homes sold in July were on the market for less than a month. Data from realtor.com, NAR’s listing site, shows the tightest inventory conditions, reported as median age of inventory, are in Oakland, Calif., 20 days; Denver, 31 days; and the Seattle area, 36 days. First-time buyers accounted for 29 percent of purchases in July, unchanged from June, but are down from 34 percent in July 2012. All-cash sales comprised 31 percent of transactions in July, the same as in June; they were 27 percent in July 2012. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 16 percent of homes in July, down from 17 percent in June; they reached a cyclical peak of 22 percent in February of this year. NAR President Gary Thomas, broker-owner of Evergreen Realty in Villa Park, Calif., said more repeat buyers are using cash. “The overall percentage of cash purchases has been fairly steady, as has the share of first-time buyers, but the investor share has been trending down since February. This means more repeat buyers are using cash in this tight-credit environment,” he said. “With a steady decline in lower priced inventory, particularly in foreclosures, investors are finding fewer bargains to buy.” Single-family home sales rose 6.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.76 million in July from 4.48 million in June, and are 16.4 percent higher than the 4.09 million-unit level in July 2012. The median existing single-family home price was $214,000 in July, up 13.5 percent from a year ago. Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 8.6 percent to an annual rate of 630,000 units in July from 580,000 in June, and are 23.5 percent above the 510,000-unit pace a year ago. The median existing condo price was $209,600 in July, which is 15.5 percent higher than July 2012. Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast surged 12.7 percent to an annual rate of 710,000 in July and are 20.3 percent above July 2012. The median price in the Northeast was $271,200, up 6.7 percent from a year ago. Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 5.8 percent in July to a pace of 1.28 million, and are 20.8 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $168,300, which is 9.5 percent above July 2012. In the South, existing-home sales increased 5.0 percent to an annual level of 2.11 million in July and are 16.6 percent above July 2012. The median price in the South was $183,400, up 13.6 percent from a year ago. Existing-home sales in the West rose 6.6 percent to a pace of 1.29 million in July and are 13.2 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the West, driven the most by a supply imbalance, was $287,500, which is 19.2 percent above July 2012.