Despite this year's surge in mortgage rates, and a steady rise in housing prices, sales of new and previously owned homes is expected to top 6 million this year and will likely hold steady in 2000, according to the predictions of Freddie Mac's top economist.

Robert Van Order, Freddie Mac's chief economist, projects that home sales will advance 6% to 6.01 million units from the year-ago figure of 5.67 million, marking the fourth consecutive home sales record. In 1998, home sales jumped 13%, with both new and existing home sales setting records.

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