WASHINGTON - U.S. sales of existing homes rose more than expected in November, keeping housing on track to set a record for the fourth straight record year, an industry survey showed.

Resales rose 6% last month, to an annual rate of 5.09 million, ending a string of four consecutive monthly declines, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. October sales fell a revised 6.4%, to a 4.80 million-unit rate, previously reported as 4.79 million units.

"The rebound in housing activity reflects just how powerful the income and wealth effects have been," said Mary Dennis, a senior economist at Merrill Lynch & Co. in New York, before the report was released.

Because the realty group's figures are based on closings, which occur 30 to 60 days after a buyer signs a contract for a home, sales of previously owned homes are affected by changes in mortgage rates and other events that occur a month or two earlier.

Thirty-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 7.82% in September and 7.89% in October, according to average weekly statistics compiled by Freddie Mac. That compares with rates below 7% in April and 7.96% last week.

Through the first 11 months of this year, 4.8 million homes were sold, putting the industry on pace for about 5.18 million units for the year.

Last year a record 4.97 million homes were sold. Analysts had expected the November sales rate to rise 3.8%, to 4.97 million units.

- Bloomberg News

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