Distressed homes accounted for 25 percent of residential home sales in August, up 2 percentage points from July.  RealtyTrac, in its August U.S. Residential and Foreclosure Sales Report, said that short sales and sales of bank-owned properties (REO) each rose one point from their July numbers to 15 percent and 10 percent respectively. 

The big news, however, was the growing level of all-cash sales which are rapidly approaching half of all residential real estate transactions.  Those sales rose to a 45 percent share in August, up from 39 percent in July and 30 percent in August 2012.   The percentage of cash sales was even higher in some metropolitan areas such as Miami (69 percent), Detroit (68 percent), Las Vegas (66 percent), Jacksonville, Florida (65 percent), and Tampa (64 percent).

The numbers of institutional investors, those who have purchased at least 10 properties in the last 12 months, are also increasing and accounted for 10 percent of all sales in August compared to 9 percent both in July and one year earlier.  Memphis, Jacksonville, and Atlanta appear particularly attractive to these large investors with those purchases representing respectively 31, 29, and 22 percent of local sales.

RealtyTrac said homes (including single-family residences, condos, and townhomes) sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.6 million in August, up 2 percent from 5.5 million in July and 12 percent higher than the 5.0 million pace in August 2012. 

The national median sales price in August was $175,000, up 3 percent from the previous month and up 6 percent from a year ago.  The company said this marked the 17th consecutive month of annual price increases.  Distressed property sold at a median price of $116,000, 1 percent higher than in July but down 3 percent from August 2012.  Distressed home sales including REO and short sales have now seen year-over-year median prices decline for six straight months.

"Seven years after the housing bubble burst, U.S. home prices are clearly on the rise again, up 23 percent from the bottom in March 2012 although still 26 below the peak of the housing price bubble in August 2006," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. "This recovery in home prices and sale volume continues to be driven in large part by cash buyers and institutional investors, as evidenced by the increasing share of sales represented by those two categories in August."

Sales volume increased from the previous month in 39 out of the 42 states tracked in the report and was up from a year ago in 37 states, including Texas, (31 percent), Illinois (29 percent), and Pennsylvania (28 percent), Virginia (up 26 percent), and Florida (up 22 percent). Notable exceptions where sales volume decreased from a year ago included California (-17 percent), Arizona (-12 percent), and Nevada (-6 percent)

States with biggest annual increases in median prices include California (32 percent), Nevada (26 percent), Georgia (21 percent), Arizona (20 percent) and New York (19 percent).