Sales of existing homes rose moderately in March to 5.35 million units annualized as consumers rushed into purchase contracts to take advantage of expiring tax credits for first-time and move-up buyers.

According to figures released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sales of one- to four-family homes, including condos and co-ops, rose almost 7% from the previous month, and 16% from the same month a year ago.

NAR called the surge in sales "expected" but the news wasn't all good: home prices remained almost flat with the national median at $170,700, and the inventory of existing homes for sale rose 1.5% to 3.58 million units.

"Foreclosures have been feeding into the inventory pipeline at a fairly steady pace and are being absorbed manageably," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. When condos and co-ops are excluded, sales rose sequentially by 7.3% to 4.68 million units.

Year-over-year the increase was 13.3%. Mortgage lenders fear that once the $8,000 FTHB tax credit expires home sales-and therefore loan applications-will suffer.

Subscribe Now

Access to a full range of industry content, analysis and expert commentary.

30-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Access coverage of the securitization marketplace, including breaking news updated throughout the day.