Despite rising mortgage rates, sales of previously owned homes rose 1.4 percent in May and tied the record set more than two years ago.

Sales of existing single-family homes totaled a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.26 million, matching the record set in December 1993, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday.It was the third advance in four months. Sales were unchanged at 4.2 million in April.

But activity was mixed in May, with sales rising in the Midwest and South while falling in the Northeast and West.

Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 8.07 percent in May, up from 7.93 percent in April and 7.03 percent as recently as January. Still, rates were not much higher than the 7.91 percent average in May 1995.

The Realtors expect sales to cool off this summer because of the recent rise in rates.

"But the market's health in not in any jeopardy," said Realtors President Art Godi.

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Sales in May were up 17.7 percent from the May 1995 rate of 3.62 million. That left an inventory of just 2.12 million, representing a six-month supply at the May sales rate.

The median price of an existing home was $117,400, up from $116,500 in April and $109,100 a year earlier. The median is the midpoint, meaning half of the homes cost more and half less.

Regionally, sales jumped 6.7 percent in the Midwest to a 1.12 million annual rate. The median price there was $99,200. Sales also rose in the South, up 2.6 percent to a $1.57 million rate. The median price was $102,000.

But they fell 4.1 percent to a 930,000 million rate in the West, where the median price was $151,000, and 1.5 percent to a 640,000 million rate in the Northeast, where the median price was $142,500.

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