US home sales jump in April to five-month high

Image caption,
Sales were boosted by a tax credit scheme but conditions are also improving

Sales of previously-owned US homes rose by 7.6% in April to a five-month high of 5.77 million, according to the industry body the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Much of the rise was prompted by a last-minute rush to buy before a special tax credit expired at the end of last month.

The figure was up 23% on April 2009.

NAR's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said the end of the tax credit may cause a dip in sales.

He added though, that the overall trend in the market was turning positive.

The tax-credit break was aimed largely at first-time buyers.

"No doubt there will be some temporary fallback in the months immediately after it expires, but other factors also are supporting the market," said Mr Yun.

He added there was a list of supporting factors: "There's been a return of buyer confidence, with stabilizing home prices, an improving economy and mortgage interest rates that remain historically low."

The average price of a house in the US was $173,100 (£120,170) in April, up 4% on a year ago.

Distressed homes accounted for 33% of sales last month, although that was an improvement on the 35% figure for March.

Last month also saw a record high for repossessions - although these are expected to start falling.

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