U.S. home sales surged to nearly a three-year high in November and prices steadied.  The sales pace for resale homes rose for the third straight month in November, climbing 44.1 percent compared to the same month last year, the National Association of Realtors reported today.

Sales reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.54 million, up 7.4 percent compared to October 2009. This rate is a projection of a monthly total over a 12-month period, adjusted to account for typical seasonal fluctuations in sales.

Regionally, the sales rate rose about 53.5 percent in the Midwest, 52.7 percent in the Northeast, 44.8 percent in the South and 28.1 percent in the West year-over-year in November. And the rate was up 10.6 percent in the West, 8.4 percent in the Midwest, 6.6 percent in the Northeast and 4.8 percent in the South compared to October 2009.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, attributed the “expected” rise to “a rush of first-time buyers not wanting to miss out” on a federal tax credit available to homebuyers.

The median sales price of resale homes was down 4.3 percent, to $172,600, in November compared to November 2008. Regionally, the median price slipped 13.1 percent in the Northeast, 4.1 percent in the West, 1.4 percent in the South and 0.4 percent in the Midwest year-over-year in November.

The months’ supply of resale homes for sale was down 40.9 percent in November 2009 compared to November 2008, at 6.5 months.

This statistic is a measure of how many months it would take to deplete the for-sale inventory at a given month’s sales pace. An inventory of six months can represent a rough equilibrium between a buyer’s market and seller’s market, with a lesser inventory representing a buyer’s market.

The California Association of Realtors, in a separate report, reported that the sales pace for single-family resale homes rose 4.7 percent year-over-year in November but had fallen 4.6 percent compared to October 2009.

The median price of single-family homes in the state rose 5.8 percent year-over-year in November, to $304,520, with annual gains as high as 41.4 percent in the Santa Barbara County region.

CAR’s Unsold Inventory Index for single-family resale homes was 4.5 months in November, down from 7.1 months in November 2008.

It took an estimated 33.1 days in November to sell a single-family resale home, compared with 44.4 days in November 2008, the association also reported.

Separate statistics by the statewide association and DataQuick Information Systems, a real estate data company, found that the median price of resale and new condos and single-family homes rose in 102 of 362 cities and communities tracked from November 2008 to November 2009.