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US home sales hit 5.4M in July, highest since ’09

Buyers have been purchasing previously occupied homes at an annual pace above 5 million for three months.

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Buyers have been purchasing previously occupied homes at an annual pace above 5 million for three months.

WASHINGTON — For the first time since 2009, previously occupied US homes are selling at a pace associated with a healthy market.

Sales jumped 6.5 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.4 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. Over the past 12 months, sales have surged 17.2 percent. The trend shows that housing remains a driving force for the economy even as mortgage rates have risen from record lows.

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Buyers have been purchasing previously occupied homes at an annual pace above 5 million for three straight months. The last time that happened was in 2007. Sales are far above the 3.45 million pace of July 2010, the low point after the housing bubble burst. Analysts generally think a healthy sales pace is roughly between 5 million and 5.5 million.

Buyers last month weren’t dissuaded by higher long-term mortgage rates, which have jumped, on average, a full percentage point since early May. The higher rates might have led some potential buyers to buy in July out of fear that rates will rise further.

A fuller effect of higher mortgage rates might not be clear until August home sales are reported next month.

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