WASHINGTON - U.S. sales of previously occupied homes rose in February to the highest level in more than three years, further evidence of a sustained housing recovery that is benefiting the broader economy.
The National Association of Realtors says sales increased 0.8 percent in February from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million. That was the highest sales pace since November 2009, when a temporary home buyer tax credit had boosted sales.
The February sales pace was also 10.2 percent higher than the same month a year ago.
Steady hiring and near-record-low mortgage rates have helped boost sales and prices in most markets.
The Realtors' group says the median price for a home sold in February was $173,600. That's up 11.6 percent from a year ago.
Part of the reason for the boom in sales has to be dropping mortgage rates. Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell this week and remained near historic lows, a trend that has supported a recovery in housing.
Freddie Mac says the average rate for the 30-year loan fell to 3.54 percent from 3.63 percent last week. That's near the 3.31 percent reached in November, which was the lowest on records dating to 1971.
The average rate on the 30-year loan has been below 4 percent now for a full year.
The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage slipped last week to 2.72 percent from 2.79 percent last week. The record low is 2.63 percent.
Low mortgage rates are spurring more home purchases and refinancing. That's helped the broader economy. Increased sales are also pushing home prices higher.
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