Sales of previously owned homes rose 5.1 percent in May and are now 9.2 percent higher than they were one year ago, according to new estimates released by the National Association of Realtors. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says home sales are now at their highest pace since November 2009. “Solid sales gains were seen throughout the country in May as more homeowners listed their home for sale and therefore provided greater choices for buyers,” Yun said. In fact, the total number of homes available for sale across the country increased 3.2 percent in May, which should help moderate price increases in addition to providing better opportunities for buyers. Among those buyers, first timers represented an ever larger share in May, accounting for 32 percent of home sales. One year ago, they were just 27 percent of sales. Yun says the return of first-time buyers is an encouraging sign and the result of strong job gains, less expensive mortgage insurance, and low down payment programs. Regionally, the Northeast led with an 11.3 percent improvement over the month before, though the Midwest, South, and West all saw gains in May. More here.