Home sales in Houston surged 15.9% in September from a year earlier, suggesting the area's housing market is gaining strength.

Sales of single-family homes rose 16.9% from September 2010, marking the fourth consecutive month of increased sales volume, according to a report from the Houston Association of Realtors. For the nine months ended in September, sales were up 3.2%.

"The combination of increased closed and pending sales, fewer active listings and strong pricing suggests that we are entering the fall home buying season on strong footing," said Carlos P. Bujosa, chairman of the Houston Association of Realtors and a vice president at Transwestern.

The inventory of unsold single-family homes fell 11% to 6.8 months in September from 7.7 months a year earlier. That's nearly two months less than the national average of 8.5 months, which represents the amount of time it would take to sell all the single-family housing inventory currently on the market. In August, monthly home sales in Houston increased 29.4% to $1.34 billion from $1.03 billion a year earlier.

Meanwhile, September pending sales also rose 3.2% and the number of active listings fell 11.5% to 47,812.

"These indicators all reflect a balanced real estate marketplace for Houston," said the realtors association in a statement outlining the data.

The median single-family home price rose 1.6% to a record for September in the Houston market, climbing to $157,500.

Sales of homes in all price ranges increased, with the largest gain coming for houses in the $250,000 to $500,000 price range, where sales jumped 26.8%. Homes priced from $150,0000 to $250,000 registered a 21.8% increase in sales.

Foreclosure sales grew on a year-over-year basis in September, rising 2.4%, but held steady as a share of all property sales, making up 19.4% of sales. The median price of foreclosures sold was $81,900.

Write to Liz Enochs.