WASHINGTON — Existing home sales rose 6.5% to a seasonally adjusted 5.39 million-unit rate in July from a revised 5.06 million pace the previous month, the National Association of Realtors announced Wednesday.

The July sales rate was stronger than the median estimate of economists polled by Thomson Reuters, who predicted a 5.16 million rate. It was the  highest since Nov. 2009, when the home buyer tax credit expired.

The rate is a 17.2% increase from July 2012. The sales rate has now been above the previous year levels for 25 months, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said.

Sales increased 12.7% in the Northeast,  5.8% in the Midwest, 5% in the South and 6.6% in the West.

The median sales price stood at $213,500 in July, an 0.2% decline from the previous month and a 13.7% increase from a year ago.

Housing inventory levels rose 5.6% from the previous month to 2.28 million existing homes, representing a 5.1-month supply at the current pace. Inventory was down 5% from the July 2012 level, when it was a 6.3-month supply.

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