Existing homes selling fast -- record fast - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Existing homes selling fast -- record fast

         NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Sales of existing homes rose in July for the fourth consecutive month, lending support to economists who argue a recovery is near.

         Sales of previously owned single-family homes were up 7.2% compared with June and 5% from July 2008, The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Friday. The monthly gain was the largest on record for existing-home sales, which NAR has tracked since 1999.

         "The housing market has decisively turned for the better," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "A combination of first-time buyers taking advantage of the housing stimulus tax credit and greatly improved affordability conditions are contributing to higher sales."

         July home sales hit an annualized rate of 5.24 million proprieties, marking the first breach of the 5 million annualized rate mark since last September, when they hit 5.1 million. Since then, they have stayed in a very narrow range, bouncing between between January's low of 4.49 million and October's high of 4.94 million.

         The July performance far exceeded expectations: A consensus of real estate experts had forecast sales of 5 million.

         Of course, homes should be selling. Prices have fallen more than 32% from their peaks, set in the summer of 2006. Plus, mortgage rates near historic lows makes the cost of purchasing a home lower than they've been in nearly 20 years.

         Hurting home sales have been stubborn increases in job losses. More than 6.7 million jobs have been lost since the beginning of 2008.

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