The National Association of Realtors estimated sales of existing homes increased 0.8% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million, compared with an upwardly revised figure of 4.94 million in January.
Compared with a year ago, the February rate is up 10.2%.
"Job growth in the improving economy and pent-up demand are causing both home sales and rental leasing to rise,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Though home prices are rising much faster than rents, historically low mortgage rates are still making home purchases affordable.”
He added: "The only headwinds are limited housing inventory, which varies greatly around the country, and credit conditions that remain too restrictive."
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $173,600 in February, up 11.6% from February 2012. The last time there were 12 consecutive months of year-over-year price increases was from June 2005 to May 2006. The February gain is the strongest since November 2005 when it was 12.9% above a year earlier.