Sales of existing single-family, townhouse, coop and condominium homes rose 7.6% to an annual pace of 5.77 million units in April, the final month of the federal home-buyer tax credit, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday. The gain beat economist expectations of an increase of 4.7% to a rate of 5.6 million.

The gain came atop an upward revision in March home sales from a pace of5.35 million to 5.36 million. April, 2010 sales were 22.8% ahead of the same month in 2009.

Prices also rose. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was up 4% to $173,100 in April. Distressed homes accounted for 33% of April sales, down from 35% in March. First-time buyers bought 49% of homes in April, up from 44% in March. Investors accounted for 15% of transactions in April, down from 19% in March. All-cash deals made up 26% of sales in April, down slightly from 27% in March.

Inventory, however, shot up 11.5% on an annualized adjusted basis to 4.04 million existing homes for sale, an 8.4-month supply. Raw unsold inventory was 2.7% above a year ago but remained 11.6% below the record of 4.58 million in July 2008.

"The upswing in April existing-home sales was expected because of the tax credit inducement, and no doubt there will be some temporary fallback in the months immediately after it expires," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "Although inventory levels remain above normal and much of the gain last month was seasonal, the housing price correction appears essentially over. In fact, a majority of the markets have seen price gains recently."

Single-family sales rose 7.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.05 million, up from 4.7 million in March, 20.5% ahead of April 2009. The median existing single-family home price was up 4.5% year-over-year to $173,400.Single-family median prices rose in 18 out of 20 metropolitan statistical areas reported in April from a year ago; six of the areas experienced double-digit increases. In NAR data recently reported for the first quarter,91 out of 152 metros saw price gains.

Existing condominium and co-op sales jumped 9.1% to a rate of 720,000, 42.3% above April 2009. The median existing condo price was $171,000 in April, 0.6% below a year earlier.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 21.1% to pace of1.09 million in April, 41.6% ahead of April 2009, with the median price up 2.1% to $243,000. The Midwest was up 9.9 percent to a pace of 1.33 million, 29.1% above last April, and the median price gained 5.8% to $146,400. The South rose 8.6% to an annual pace of 2.14 million, 23% above that of a year earlier, with the median price up 1.2% to $150,000. The West fell 6.2% to an annual rate of 1.21 million, still 5.2% above a year earlier, but the median price was up 3.8% to $212,400.

"A return to old-fashioned responsible lending and buying will help the housing market avoid disruptive and painful bubble-bust cycles," Yun concluded.