Sales of previously owned homes regained momentum in May, a welcome sign that the housing market remains strong after sales fell unexpectedly in April.

The pace of existing home sales increased 5.1% last month from April to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.35 million, the National Association of Realtors said Monday. Sales for April were revised up to 5.09 million from an initially reported 5.04 million.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected May sales would increase 4.2% to a pace of 5.25 million.

Sales hit their strongest pace since November 2009. Strong sales in May were driven in part by first-time home buyers returning to the market. First-time buyers increased to 32% of all buyers from 27% at this time last year, NAR reported.


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