Sales of existing homes rose 10% in September, beating analyst estimates and adding on to gains from the prior month. The National Association of Realtors said seasonally adjusted sale rose to 4.53 million in September from a downwardly revised 4.12 million in August. The rate continues to move away from the 3.83 million reported in July, which was the lowest level recorded since NAR began publishing the report in 1999. Economists polled by Econoday were expecting September sales to rise to 4.3 million, with a range of estimates between 4.21 million and 4.6 million. A Briefing.com survey projected sales of 4.2 million last month. Existing sales still remain 19.1%  below the 5.6 million for the year-ago September, when demand increased in advance of the initial deadline for the homebuyer tax credit last November, according to NAR. "A housing recovery is taking place but will be choppy at times depending on the duration and impact of a foreclosure moratorium," NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said. "But the overall direction should be a gradual rising trend in home sales with buyers responding to historically low mortgage interest rates and very favorable affordability conditions." Freddie Mac recently reported the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage climbed for the first time in more than a month to 4.21% for the week ended Oct. 21. For the previous week, the average rate on a 30-year fell to the lowest level since 1951. A year ago, the average was 5%. For all of September, the average rate for a 30-fixed mortgage fell to the lowest level since 1971 at 4.35%, according to Freddie Mac. NAR, which measures the completed transactions of single-family, townhomes, condos and co-ops, said the median price for all housing types was $171,700 in September, down 2.4% from a year earlier. Distressed sales accounted for 35% of sales last month, up slightly from 34% in August and 29% a year earlier. Write to Jason Philyaw.