WASHINGTON — Sales of existing-homes rose in February to the highest rate in more than three years, another sign of a strengthening housing market, as inventories posted an unusually large gain in the month, a trade group said Thursday.
The National Association of Realtors said existing-home sales rose 0.8 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million, hitting the highest level since November 2009.
Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a pace of 5.02 million for February, compared with an original estimate of a 4.92 million rate in January. On Thursday, the Realtors’ group upwardly revised January’s rate to 4.94 million.
While sales remain below pre-bubble levels, low mortgage rates and an improving jobs picture are supporting demand.
In addition, rising prices are encouraging activity, luring sellers to place homes on the market.
Inventories rose 9.6 percent in February to 1.94 million existing homes available for sale.