Existing-home sales rose to 4.79 million rate

, Daily Business Review

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Sales of previously owned U.S. homes climbed in October, indicating gains in the real estate market are being sustained by cheap borrowing costs.

Purchases of existing houses, tabulated when a contract closes, increased 2.1 percent to a 4.79 million annual rate, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.

The median price rose from a year ago as inventories dropped to the lowest level in almost a decade.

Propelled by the lowest mortgage rates on record, cheaper properties and improved consumer sentiment, housing is one of the economy's sources of strength.

The median price of an existing home climbed 11.1 percent from October 2011 to $178,600. The increase in October reflected a pickup in sales of more expensive properties.

The number of previously owned homes on the market decreased 1.4 percent to 2.14 million, the lowest since December 2002. At the current sales pace, it would take 5.4 months, the fewest since February 2006, to sell those houses compared with 5.6 months at the end of September.

Sales of existing single-family homes increased 1.9 percent to an annual rate of 4.22 million. Purchases of multifamily properties — including condominiums — rose to a 570,000 pace from 550,000.

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