First-time buyers and investors dominating the market pushed Phoenix-area home sales to a rare increase in September, according to San Diego-based mortgage information provider MDA DataQuick. A total of 8,886 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the Phoenix area for September, up 3.6% from August and a 12.9% increase from a year ago. For nine consecutive months, home sales have increased, but September’s jump was the lowest since February, according to the report. The unusual hike in sales from August was seen across the West. Since 2000, September sales in Phoenix have only increased once – last year. According to DataQuick, September sales usually dip by an average 6.5% from August. The median sales price continued a string of month-to-month gains since May, as foreclosure re-sales waned. The median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos in September was $137,000, up 1.5% from $135,000 in August, but still a 23.3% drop from $178,607 last year, according to the report. “The median’s gradual ascent began shortly after the percentage of resales involving foreclosures started to decline this spring,” according to the report. “Even absent price appreciation, a decline in foreclosure resales puts upward pressure on the median sale price, just as the huge run-up in foreclosure resales over the past two years spurred dramatic declines in the median.” For the third straight month, foreclosures in the area dropped as lenders and servicers channeled distressed mortgages into short sales and loan modifications. In September, 4,141 single-family houses and condos foreclosed, down 6.2% from August and a 14.3% drop from last year, according to DataQuick. Write to Jon Prior.