Existing home sales increased 7.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of4.13 million in August from an upwardly revised 3.84 million in July, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday. The annual rate was in line with the 4.1 million expected by Wall Street but remained 19% below the 5.10 million-unit pace in August 2009.

Prices, meanwhile, continued inching upward, with the national median for all housing types rising 0.8% from July to $178,600 in August. Distressed homes accounted for 34% of sales in August, up from 32% in July and 31% in August 2009.

Unsold inventory at the end of August slipped 0.6% to 3.98 million, an 11.6-month supply, down from 12.5 months in July.

Single-family home sales rose 7.4% to an adjusted annual rate of 3.62 million from 3.37 million in July but remained 19.2% below the 4.48 million level of August 2009. The median existing single-family home price was $179,300 in August, up 1.2% year-over-year.

Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 8.5% to a pace of 510,000 from 470,000 in July, 17.1% below August 2009. The median existing condo price was $174,000 in August, 2.8% below the same month last year.

"The housing market is trying to recover on its own power without the home buyer tax credit," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "Despite very attractive affordability conditions, a housing market recovery will likely be slow and gradual because of lingering economic uncertainty."

Regionally, the Northeast rose 7.9% to an annual level of 680,000, 24.4% below August 2009, with the median price up 7.6% to $260,300.The Midwest was up 5% to a pace of 840,000, 26.3% below August a year ago, with he median price up 0.4% to $149,600. The South rose 5.2% to an annual level of 1.62 million,13.4% below August 2009, as the median price fell 1.5% to $155,000. The West jumped 13.8% to a pace of 990,000 in August, 16.1% behind August 2009, and the median price was down 2.5% to $214,700NAR

A separate analysis by NAR showed first-time buyers slipped to 31% of purchases in August from 38% in July, while investors accounted for 21% of purchases, up from 19% in July. All-cash sales dropped to 28% from 30% in July.