WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. home sales rose last month to the highest level since February 2007 as buyers rushed to close deals before mortgage rates increased further.
Yet the gain could represent a temporary peak if higher rates slow sales in coming months.
Sales of previously occupied homes rose 1.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.48 million in August, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. That level is consistent with a healthy market.
August sales reflect contracts signed in June and July, when mortgage rates were rising steadily.
Higher rates could also depress home buying next year, the Realtors' said. The group forecasts that sales will average 5.2 million in 2014.
"We should expect some giveback in sales over the next several months," said Thomas Feltmate, an economist at TD Economics.
Steady job gains and low mortgage rates have fueled a recovery in housing since early 2012. But rates have risen since May and have begun to restrain housing's rebound.
The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.57 percent last week. Mortgage rates are still quite low by historical standards. At the same time, potential homebuyers, particularly first-time purchasers, still appear to have difficulty qualifying for loans.