Sales of existing homes in the United States rose for the third straight month in July, holding at the highest pace since 2007, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.
Sales of previously owned single-family homes rose 2.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.59 million, the strongest level since February 2007, about nine months before the US economy entered the Great Recession.
Sales were up 10.3 percent from a year ago.
Analysts had expected a slightly slower annual sales rate of 5.42 million units.
"The creation of jobs added at a steady clip and the prospect of higher mortgage rates and home prices down the road is encouraging more households to buy now," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, in a statement.
Despite the solid growth in existing-home sales during the peak homebuying season, tight housing supplies and rising prices likely pushed the share of first-time buyers down to the lowest level since January, NAR said.
First-time buyers, important for spurring momentum in the market, declined for the second month in a row, from 30 percent of all buyers in June to 28 percent. A year ago the share was 29 percent.
Total inventory of single-family homes, condos and co-ops fell 0.4 percent to 2.24 million in July, and has shrunk 4.7 percent from a year ago.
At the heated sales pace, the limited homes for sale represented a 4.8-month supply, a tick higher than in June and helping to push prices higher.
The median existing-home price in July was $234,000, up 5.6 percent from a year ago.