NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Sales of existing homes in the United States rose in May, an industry group reported Friday, coming in well ahead of economists' estimates.
Sales of existing homes grew by 2.6 percent in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.8 million, according to the National Association of Realtors, above April's level of 6.63 million.
Wall Street expected a reading of 6.5 million, according to Briefing.com.
While an important barometer of the housing market, readings on new home sales typically carry more weight because new sales are reported when a contract is signed. Existing home sales are reported when the sales closes, usually weeks after a sales agreement is reached.
"Fundamentals are still very favorable for a vibrant market," said David Lereah, NAR's chief economist, in a statement. "In part, the record results from a natural 'fence-jumping' by buyers getting into the market after mortgage interest rates began to rise at a sharper clip in April."
With the increased demand, home prices continued to climb. The median price for an existing home in the United States was $183,600 in May, up more than 10 percent from $166,400 a year earlier.