Americans bought more homes in July than in June, the latest evidence that the housing market is slowly recovering. Sales of previously occupied homes rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million in July, a 2.3% increase from the previous month's rate, the National Association of Realtors said today. The industry's recovery has grown more consistent, though it remains slow and uneven.
On the downside: July sales were below the 4.6 million annual pace reached in April and May. And the annual sales pace is below the roughly 5.5 million that economists consider healthy. But on the upside, the number of first-time homebuyers, critical to a housing rebound, rose to 34% of sales, up slightly from June. In a healthy market, first-time buyers make up about 40% of sales. Purchases are being restrained by low levels of homes available for sale and tight credit standards. (Read more home sales stories.)