Home sales increased 7.6% in August after the drop to a decade low in July, according to the National Association of Realtors. The annual rate of sales in August reached 4.13 million, up from the revised 3.84 million in July. But sales are still down 19% from last year. Lawrence Yun, the chief economist at NAR, said the housing market is still trying to move forward without government incentives. "The housing market is trying to recover on its own power without the homebuyer tax credit. Despite very attractive affordability conditions, a housing market recovery will likely be slow and gradual because of lingering economic uncertainty,” Yun said. NAR measures the completed transactions of single-family, townhomes, condos and co-ops. Also today, Freddie Mac reported the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low of 4.43% in August, down from 5.19% last year. The national median existing home price for all housing types was $178,600 in August, up 0.8% from last year. “Home values have shown stabilizing trends over the past year, even as the economy shed millions of jobs, because of the homebuyer tax-credit stimulus. Now that the economy is adding some jobs, the housing market needs to steadily improve and eventually stand on its own," Yun said. Distressed sales accounted for 34% of sales in August, up from 32% in July and 31% a year earlier. The housing inventory through August dropped 0.6% to 3.98 million homes still on the market. It represents an 11.6-month supply of houses at the current sales pace, down from a 12.5-month supply in July. First-time buyers made 31% of the purchases in August, down from 38% in July. And investors accounted for 21% of sales in August, up from 19% the prior month. Single-family home sales increased in 10 of the 19 largest metropolitan statistical areas. Existing condo and co-op sales increased 8.5% to an annual rate of 510,000 in August. The pace is still 17.1% below last year. Write to Jon Prior.