American homebuyers got a slight respite from rising prices last month, and sales of existing homes rebounded after dipping in August, according to industry data released Thursday.

Shortages of workers and building supplies have drained the supply of housing as buyers have taken advantage of low mortgage rates during the Covid-19 pandemic to trade up, move to the suburbs or buy for the first time. And that in turn sent prices soaring.

Sales of existing single-family homes, townhomes and apartments rose seven percent compared to August to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 6.29 million units in September, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported.

That was slightly higher than economists had forecast, and came as the median home price eased to $352,800, about $5,000 less than in the prior month.

"Some improvement in supply during prior months helped nudge up sales in September," NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement.

"Housing demand remains strong as buyers likely want to secure a home before mortgage rates increase even further next year."

Despite the dip in the median sales price in the month, it was 13.3 percent higher than September 2020, marking 115 straight months of year-over-year increases, NAR said.

US home prices remain well above 2020 levels but supply pressures are expected to ease next year US home prices remain well above 2020 levels but supply pressures are expected to ease next year Photo: AFP / SAUL LOEB

And sales last month were 2.3 percent lower than a year ago, which was just before the peak.

The shortage of homes on the market has been an ongoing feature of the real estate market, and inventory slipped further in September, falling 0.8 percent. It is down 13 percent from one year ago, according to the data.

But Yun said more supply could become available when homeowners no longer have the benefit of pandemic programs that protected them from foreclosure.

"As mortgage forbearance programs end, and as homebuilders ramp up production -- despite the supply-chain material issues -- we are likely to see more homes on the market as soon as 2022," he said.

The pandemic stimulus programs approved by Congress have included payment suspensions for federally-backed loans with extensions of up to 18 months, but millions of borrowers are reaching the end of the line.

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