WASHINGTON-- The market for existing single-family home sales eased in July while remaining near historic highs, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Existing-home sales slowed 3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million units in July from a pace of 5.33 million units in June. Last month's sales activity was 7.3 percent above the 4.82-million unit pace in July 2000.

NAR President Richard A. Mendenhall said affordability conditions remain favorable because of declining mortgage interest rates.

The national median existing-home price was $150,800 in July, up 5.2 percent from July 2000 when the median price was $143,300. The median is the midpoint, which is a typical market price where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

Housing inventory levels at the end of July dropped 5.1 percent from June to a total of 2.05 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.8-month supply at the current sales pace; there were 2.16 million homes available at the end of June. The July inventory level is 3.5 percent higher than July 2000, when 1.98 million homes were on the market.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 3.2 percent in July to a pace of 650,000 units. The sales rate was unchanged from July 2000. The median existing-home price in the Northeast was $153,300, up 6.5 percent from a year ago.

Existing homes in the Midwest were selling at an annual rate of 1.12 million units in July, down 1.8 percent from June. The pace was 7.7 percent above July 2000. The median price in the Midwest was $134,100, up 4.1 percent from July 2000.

The existing-home sales pace in the South slipped 1.9 percent in July to an annual rate of 2.07 million units, but was 8.4 percent above July 2000. The median price of an existing home in the South was $141,600, which was 6.7 percent higher than a year ago.

Home resales in the West fell 8.9 percent in July to an annual rate of 1.33 million units, but were 9 percent above July 2000. The median existing-home price in the West was $190,900, up 4.3 percent from the same month a year earlier.