Home buyer race to use tax credit…

Sales of existing U.S. homes surged a record 9.4 percent in September as Americans rushed to take advantage of a tax credit for first-time buyers before it expires next month.

Purchases rose to a 5.57 million annual rate, more than forecast and the highest in more than two years, the National Association of Realtors said Friday in Washington. The median price fell at the slowest pace in a year as the number of houses on the market shrank.

While sales may cool unless Congress decides to extend the $8,000 credit due to expire Nov. 30, lower prices and mortgage rates have also made houses more affordable and may cushion any decline. Smaller price decreases show the market is stabilizing as demand improves, easing the strain on consumer finances that deepened the worst recession since the 1930s.

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