The median sales price of an existing home fell modestly in the second quarter as 27% of metropolitan areas experienced price gains from a year ago, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. The national median, existing single-family home price hit $171,900, during the second quarter, down 2.8% from $176,800 a year earlier. Distressed home sales accounted for one-third of sales in the second quarter, a decline from 39% last year. Several metro areas saw price increases, including Washington, San Antonio and Fargo, N.D. All of which are cities with stable markets. "Median home prices have been moving up and down in a relatively narrow range in many markets, which shows a stabilization trend," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR. He added median sales prices can be misleading since they include distressed properties. "The level of foreclosures, which can artificially depress median prices, can vary notably in given markets," Yun explained. "The annual price gauge smooths out the quarterly swings and has shown fairly stable price trends in most markets." NAR's Housing Affordability Index hit 176.6 in the second quarter, the third highest on record since the association began studying home affordability in 1970. Meanwhile, total existing home sales fell 5.4% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.86 million units in the second quarter, down from 5.14 million in the first quarter. NAR President Ron Phipps suggested tighter underwriting is hurting the recovery in housing. "It's frustrating for many creditworthy potential homebuyers to realize that when they're ready to make a move, banks remain risk averse," he said. "People with good jobs, long-term plans and who are willing to stay well within their means deserve an opportunity to realize their American dream of home ownership." Of the home sales made last quarter, 30% were cash buys. Investors dominated the cash-purchase transactions accounting for 19% of all second quarter sales, according to NAR. First-time homebuyers purchased 35% of the homes, down from 46% in the second quarter of last year. Write to: Kerri Panchuk.