WASHINGTON — Existing home sales rose 7.8% in August to a seasonally adjusted 4.82 million-unit rate, following an unrevised 4.47 million rate in July, the National Association of Realtors announced Wednesday.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had predicted 4.56 million sales in August. The August sales pace was the largest since a 4.89 million rate in May 2010, and was a 9.3% increase from August 2011. The sales rate has now been above the previous year's levels for 14 straight months, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said.

The pace of sales picked up across all regions of the country, Yun said. Sales rose 4.6% in the Northeast, 7.7% in the Midwest, 7.3% in the South, and 8.3% in the West.

The median sales price rose to $187,400, a 9.5% gain from a year ago. Yun said that the rising prices are attributable both to a decline in the rate of distressed sales and to a genuine price increase.

The inventory levels rose slightly to 2.47 million existing homes, representing a 6.1-month supply at the current pace. That supply represents the lowest figure since it was 6 months in January. Inventory is down 25.6% from the August 2011 level.

"Housing market recovery is becoming much more convincing," Yun said. "Based on the trends that we have been seeing, home sales will be at a five-year high this year."

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