WASHINGTON - Existing home sales decreased 0.9% in February to a seasonally adjusted 4.59 million-unit rate, after an upwardly revised 4.63 million rate in January, originally reported as 4.57 million units, the National Association of Realtors announced Wednesday.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had predicted 4.62 million sales.

Sales were up 8.8% from a 4.22 million unit sales pace last February.

Inventory levels rose 4.3% at the end of February to 2.43 million existing homes for sale, representing a 6.4-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 6.0 months in last month’s report.

Meanwhile, the national median existing home price was $156,600 in February, up 0.3% from a year ago.

Distressed homes — foreclosures and short sales, which sell at deep discounts — accounted for 34% of February sales, down from 35% in January and 39% in February 2011.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said 2012 sales are on pace to be the strongest since 2007, as both January and February outpaced those months from 2008 to 2011. Yun said improving economic conditions made him “very comfortable” that the pace could be sustained in the coming months.

 

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