Purchases of existing homes rose 5.5% last month, to a 5.18 million annual pace, the highest level in a year, the National Association of Realtors said Friday.

"This may be a temporary bump as we clear out these foreclosed properties," said Adam York, an economist at Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte. "As the meltdown really hits these figures in late October and November, that's when we could see some retracement."

Sales rose 1.4% from a year earlier, the first year-over-year increase since November 2005.

Foreclosure-related sales accounted for 35% to 40% of last month's total, the agents' group said. Of those, about 80% were for primary residences, higher than the average of about 75%, and signaling that investors are not a primary reason for the jump, said Lawrence Yun, the group's chief economist.

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