PhotoConsumers looking to buy their first homes helped lift sales of previously-owned houses for the fourth straight month in June.

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) reports total existing-home sales -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops -- rose 1.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million.

Last month's gain put sales 3.0% ahead of the June 2015 rate, and keeps them at their highest annual pace since February 2007.

The share of first-time buyers was 33% in June, up 3.0% from May and a year ago, and is the highest since July 2012. Through the first six months of the year, first-time buyers have represented an average of 31% of buyers; they represented 30% of buyers in all of 2015.

"Existing sales rose again last month as more traditional buyers and fewer investors were able to close on a home despite many competitive areas with unrelenting supply and demand imbalances," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Sustained job growth as well as this year's descent in mortgage rates is undoubtedly driving the appetite for home purchases."

Prices and inventory

The median existing-home price for all housing types was $247,700 last month -- up 4.8% from June 2015. That marks the 52nd consecutive month of year-over-year gains and surpasses May's peak median sales price of $238,900.

Total housing inventory was down 0.9% at the end of the month to 2.12 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 5.8% lower than a year ago (2.25 million). Unsold inventory is at a 4.6-month supply at the current sales pace.

"Looking ahead, it's unclear if this current sales pace can further accelerate as record high stock prices, near-record low mortgage rates and solid job gains face off against a dearth of homes available for sale and lofty home prices that keep advancing," Yun cautioned.

Sales regionally

  • Existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 1.3% in June to an annual rate of 760,000, but are 5.6% above a year ago. The median price was up 1.4% from June, 2015 at $284,800.
  • In the Midwest, sales jumped 3.8% to an annual rate of 1.35 million, and are up 4.7% on a year-over-year basis. The median price was $199,900 -- up 5.7% from a year ago.
  • Sales in the South were unchanged from May at an annual rate of 2.26 million, and are 3.2% higher than they were at the same time last year. The median prices rose 5.5% to $217,400.
  • The West saw sales move up 1.7% to an annual rate of 1.20 million in June; however, they're down 0.8% from June of last year. The median price shot up 7.2% -- to $350,800.

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