Sales of existing single-family, coop and condominium homes rose 3.6% in June, the third consecutive month of gains, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday morning.

Existing-home sales for all housing types were running at an annual, seasonally adjusted pace of 4.89 million units in June, the NAR said.However, the percentage gain was boosted by a downward revision in the May estimate from the rate of 4.77 million units originally reported to 4.72 million. On a year-over-year basis, sales were off only 0.2% from June, 2008.

Single-family existing home sales rose 2.4% to an annual pace of 4.32 million, up 0.2% from last June. Existing condominium and co-op sales jumped 14.0% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 570,000, 3.1% behind June 2008's pace.

Prices, however, continued falling, with the national median for all housing types down 15.4% from last June to $181,800. Distressed properties accounted for 31% of June sales, the NAR said. The median existing single-family home price was down 15% to $181,600; the median existing condo price was $183,300 in June, down 18.9% from a year ago.

Inventory dropped 0.7% to 3.82 million, a 9.4-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 9.8-month supply in May. Raw inventory totals were 14.9% below a year ago.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said the numbers were encouraging. "We expect a gradual uptrend in sales to continue due to tax credit incentives and historically high affordability conditions," he said.

Regionally, the Northeast rose 2.5% to an annual pace of 820,000, 4.7% below a year ago, with the median price down 5.9% from last June to $249,400. The Midwest was up 0.9% to1.10 million, 1.8% below a year ago, and the median price dropped 9.1% to $157,000. The South gained 4.0% to 1.81 million, 3.7% below a year ago, with the median price off 11.9% to $163,200. The West jumped 6.4% to 1.16 million, up 11.5% from last June, but the median price was down a whopping 24.9% to $214,800.

Yun noted problems caused by the new appraisal code of conduct (Home Valuation Code of Conduct) that took effect in May. A June survey of NAR members showed 37% experienced at least one lost sale as a result of the new code, with seven of 10 reporting an increased use of out-of-area appraisers. 70% of NAR appraiser members said consumers were paying higher fees, while 85% reported "a perceived reduction in appraisal quality."

"Clearly the process needs to be revised, but the most logical approach is to use appraisers with local expertise, industry designations and access to local data, who make a physical examination of the property and use apples-to-apples comparisons with nearby home sales," Yun said. "In many cases, normal homes are being compared with distressed homes sold at a discount, which often are in subpar condition. This is causing real harm to both buyers and sellers."

Still, NAR president Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker in Dallas, was upbeat. "Despite some of the challenges, the housing market continues to demonstrate signs of recovery," he said. "The temporary first-time buyer tax credit is clearly helping people make a decision and is contributing to the overall stimulus impact, but since it's taking longer to close transactions, many would-be beneficiaries may not be able to take advantage of the credit before the December 1 expiration date."