WASHINGTON -- Sales of existing single-family homes slipped in August but remained historically strong, while prices continued to experience above-normal appreciation, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Existing-home sales declined 1.7 percent in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million units from an upwardly revised level of 5.37 million units in July. Last month's sales activity was 3.8 percent below the 5.49-million unit pace in August 2001.

The annual pace is close to last year's record of 5.30 million sales, according to the NAR.

The national median existing-home price was $163,600 in August, up 6.4 percent from August 2001 at $153,700.

Housing inventory levels at the end of August rose 4.8 percent from July to a total of 2.20 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5-month supply at the current sales pace. NAR generally considers a 6-month supply to represent a more balanced market between home buyers and sellers.

Regionally, home resale activity in the West rose 2.2 percent from July to an annual rate of 1.40 million units in August; it was 2.8 percent below August 2001. The median existing-home price in the West was $212,500, up 5.5 percent from the same month a year earlier.

Existing-home sales in the Northeast slipped 1.6 percent in August to a pace of 630,000 units; the sales rate was 7.4 percent below a year ago. The median existing-home price in the Northeast was $169,000, up 9.7 percent from August 2001.

The existing-home sales pace in the South fell 1.8 percent in August to an annual rate of 2.13 million units, and were 4.1 percent below August 2001. The median price of an existing home in the South was $153,400, which was 6.8 percent higher than a year earlier.

In the Midwest, homes were reselling at an annual rate of 1.12 million units in August, down 5.9 percent from July, and 3.4 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $142,900, up 6.6 percent from August 2001.