Housing gains US sales of previously occupied homes exceeded 5 million in May, according to a report released on Thursday by the National Association of Realtors.

This marks the first time the figure has exceeded 5 million in three and a half years and is a significant sign that the housing recovery is strengthening. The last time sales surpassed 5 million was in November 2009 when a home-buying tax credit temporarily bumped the pace of sales. 

In its report, the National Association of Realtors said that home re-sales in May increased by 4.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.18 million. The rate of sales in April was 4.97 million.

The typical sales pace for a healthy market is 5.5 million, so the US recovery still has a ways to go. However, the pace of sales has increased by nearly 13 percent in the past 12 months.

Here are a few more key points contained within the National Association of Realtors report:

  • The median price of a US home rose to $208,000 in May, the highest level since July.
  • The median price has risen 15.4 percent year-over-year, the fastest gain since October 2005.
  • Low mortgage rates and steady hiring have led more people to buy homes.
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke noted housing gains as a major reason that the Fed’s economic outlook has improved.

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