Existing home sales rose more than expected to an annualized pace of 5.18 million units in September, a 5.5% advance in the month, following August's unrevised sales pace of 4.91 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Economists were expecting September's sales pace to improve to only 4.95 million units.

Total housing inventories fell to a 9.9-month supply in September, down from the upwardly revised 10.6-month overhang recorded in August.

Single-family unit sales - which account for four-fifths of all sales - rose 6.2% to a pace of 4.62 million, up from a rate of 4.35 million in the previous month.

The national median existing home price fell to $191,600 in September, down from the August figure of $203,100 and marking a 9.0% year-over-year decline.

Existing home sales, which include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings. This differs from the U.S. Census Bureau's series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit.

By Patrick McGee and edited by Stephen Huebl
©CEP News Ltd. 2008