By Mark Memmott

A rush to close deals produced a healthy 7.4% gain in sales of so-called existing homes last month, the National Association of Realtors just reported.

"First-time buyers," NAR says, "rushed to close sales before the original November 30 deadline for the recently extended and expanded tax credit."

The rush pushed sales of occupied homes to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.54 million units in November, up from from a 6.09 million rate in October.

Sales were up 44.1% from the 4.54 million-unit pace in November 2008.

In a statement, NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said:

"We expect a temporary sales drop while buying activity ramps up for another surge in the spring when buyers take advantage of the expanded tax credit, which hopefully will take us into a self-sustaining market in the second half of 2010. In all, 4.4 million households are expected to claim the tax credit before it expires and balance should be restored to the housing sector with inventories continuing to decline."

The tax credit has been extended to April 30, 2010.

Planet Money follows the economy here.

In this photo made Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009, a 'for sale' sign is seen outside a home in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Is the worst over? (Reed Saxon/AP)

categories: Economy

10:25 - December 22, 2009