(CBS/AP) WASHINGTON - U.S. sales of previously occupied homes jumped in August to the highest level in more than two years, adding momentum to the housing recovery.
The National Association of Realtors says sales rose 7.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million. That's the most since May 2010, when sales were fueled by a federal home-buying tax credit.
The figures were reported the same day the government said U.S. homebuilders broke ground on more new homes in August compared to July.
"The housing market is steadily recovering with consistent increases in both home sales and median prices," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun in a statement. "More buyers are taking advantage of excellent housing affordability conditions. Inventories in many parts of the country are broadly balanced, favoring neither sellers nor buyers. However, the West and Florida markets are experiencing inventory shortages, which are placing pressure on prices."
Still, the recovery is from a depressed level. Sales of previously occupied homes remain below the more than 5.5 million that economists consider consistent with a healthy market. And the number of first-time homebuyers, who are critical to a housing rebound, slipped to 31 percent from 34 percent.