Sales of existing homes of all types rose 5.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million in November, reversing a downward trend that began when the federal home-buyer tax credit expired in June, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday. Single-family sales were up 6.7%.

Though up, sales remained 27.9% below the cyclical peak of 6.49 million in November 2009, the deadline for the original first-time buyer tax credit.

Moreover, prices held, with the national median price rising 0.4% to $170,600 in November from a year earlier. Distressed properties made up a 33% of sales in November, down slightly from 34% in October and flat with November 2009. Foreclosures accounted for two-thirds of the distressed sales share and sold at a median discount of 15% in November, while short sales were discounted 10% in comparison with traditional home sales.

Single-family home sales were up a more robust 6.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.15 million, still 27.3% below a surge to a 5.71 million cyclical peak in November 2009. The median price was $171,300, up 1.2% from a year earlier.

Existing condominium and co-op sales fell 1.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 530,000, 32.2% below November, 2009. The median price was $165,300 in November, down 5.5% from November 2009.

Total housing inventory at the end of November fell 4.0% to 3.71 million existing homes available for sale, a 9.5-month, down sharply from a 10.5-month supply in October.

A separate survey by the Realtor group showed first-time buyers made up 32% of buyers in November, flat with October but way down from 51% in November, 2009. Investors accounted for 19% of transactions, also unchanged from October but up from 12% in November 2009. The rest of sales were repeat buyers.

All-cash sales were at 31% in November, up from 29% in October and 19% a year ago, an indicator of tightness in the mortgage market, the NAR said.

Regionally, sales in the Northeast rose 2.7% to an annual pace of 770,000, 33% behind the pace in November 2009. The median price was up 9.2% to $242,500. The Midwest was up 6.4% to a pace of 1 million, 35.1% below November 2009, with the median price down 1.1% to $138,900. The South gained 2.9% to a pace of 1.76 million, 26.1% behind November 2009 as the median price in the South dropped 2.6% to $148,000. The West jumped 11.7% to 1.15 million, 19.0% below last year's pace, and the median price was up 0.4% to $212,500.

The Realtors sounded sunnier than they had since the tax-credit-fueled sales surge ended.

"The relationship recently between mortgage interest rates, home prices and family income has been the most favorable on record for buying a home since we started measuring in 1970," said Lawrence Yun, the NAR's chief economist. "Therefore, the market is recovering and we should trend up to a healthy, sustainable level in 2011."