WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Association of Realtors reports on the number of existing U.S. homes sold in November. The report will be released at 10 a.m. Eastern time Thursday . ANOTHER DECLINE: Economists forecast that re-sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.06 million, according to a survey by FactSet. That would be down from a 5.12 million pace in October. STILL ON THE MEND: The housing market had been steadily recovering over the past year, helped by a strengthening job market and low mortgage rates. Over the summer, home sales reached a pace of 5.39 million. That was the fastest in four years and nearly touched the 5.5 million pace that is generally consistent with healthy markets. But mortgage rates are nearly a full percentage point higher than the spring, when they hovered near record lows. And a limited supply of homes on the market has driven up prices. The combination has made home buying less affordable — particularly for first-time buyers — leading to declines in sales. Despite the softening in the market, October sales were 6 percent higher than the same month a year ago. That's a sharp improvement from the bottom of the real-estate collapse when sales fell to a yearly rate of 3.45 million in July 2010 . There are signs that housing will rebound and even strengthen next year. Builders broke ground on new homes last month at the fastest pace in more than five years, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. And builders' confidence in the market rose this month to match the highest level in eight years. Median prices for existing homes have climbed 12.8 percent to $199,500 over the past 12 months, according to the Realtors. That is the 11th straight month of double-digit annual increases. The increase comes in part from the limited supply of homes on the market. The number of months of supply has fallen 3.8 percent over the past year. Mortgage rates have risen about a percentage point from historic lows earlier this year. The average rate on a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage last week was 4.42 percent. Fewer first-time buyers are entering the market as they struggle to qualify for loans. They accounted for 28 percent of sales in October, down from 31 percent a year ago. In healthier housing markets, they typically make up at least 40 percent of buyers. Instead, more investors have poured into the market. Cash purchases made up 31 percent of transactions in March, up from 29 percent a year ago.
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