Sales of new single-family houses rose 6.2% in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 430,000, according to estimates released Wednesday from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The gains suggested concerns over the expiration of the federal tax-credit for first-time homebuyers were misplaced. However, the increase was driven entirely by a 23.2% surge in the South versus declines in the other three regions, suggesting the possibility of a quirk in the data.

The gain nonetheless put new home sales 5.1% ahead of October, 2008.

The median price rose marginally from September to $212,000, but the average price fell 8.2% to $261,100. Prices in October, 2008 were $213,200 and $274,000, respectively.

Inventory was down 9.5% to a 6.7-month supply of 237,000 homes, down 39.6% from October, 2008. Median months for sale increased to 13.5 from 13.1 in September and 9.1 a year earlier.

Regionally, the South's 23.2% sequential gain more than offset a 20% decline in the Midwest, a 5% decline in the Northeast and a 5.1% drop in the West. Based on the October data, new-home sales in October were up year-over-year by 5.7% in the Northeast, 8.4% in the South, 8.1% in the West and down 11.1% in the Midwest.

Not seasonally adjusted, the Census Bureau and HUD said 20,000 new single-family homes were sold in the South, which during the past 12 months has routinely sold as many or more homes than the other regions combined. The Northeast reported 3,000 sales, the Midwest 5,000, and the West 7,000.