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US property sales rise for third month in row

The latest figures from the National Association of Realtors show that overall sales transactions increased 3.6% in June, just slightly below the year-ago level and at a quicker rate than expected.

But house prices were still down 15.4% on a year ago. The average sale price now stands at $181,000.

But the figures are injecting hope into the troubled real estate market. 'This is another hopeful sign. The housing market is healing,' said Lawrence Yun, the association's chief economist. 'The increase in existing home sales occurred in all major regions of the country,' he added.

Others agree. 'The bottoming process in the housing market is under way,' said Michelle Meyer of Barclays Capital. 'The stabilisation has been driven in part by an increase in deeply discounted foreclosed properties,' she added.

There are concerns that a considerable backlog of foreclosed properties and homes in danger of slipping into foreclosure will hit the real estate market later this year and in 2010. Also June is traditionally one of the strongest months for house sales in the US as families prepare to move before the new school year starts.

But the latest figures from real estate provider MDA DataQuick shows that the number of foreclosure proceedings is easing. In California, one of the nation's hardest hit states in terms of foreclosures the number of foreclosures is easing.

'There is a perception that the housing market is dragging along bottom, that it probably won't get much worse,' said John Walsh, president of DataQuick.

'We're just now seeing the beginnings of more normal mortgage lending patterns. There's still a long way to go, but it looks like the worst of the grind is over,' he added.