Sales of previously owned U.S. homes increased more than analysts expected in April, increasing 2.5 percent as home buyers jumped into the market in advance of an anticipated rise in mortgage interest rates.

The home resales rate climbed to a seasonally adjusted annual clip of 6.64 million units in April, up from a 6.48 million unit rate in March, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Analysts had been projecting a 6.45 million annual sales pace for the month.

"You have low mortgage rates and fence jumpers that contributed to the second strongest month ever for home sales," said David Lereah, NAR's chief economist.

Inventories in April increased to 2.57 million units from 2.35 million the previous month. It was the highest since August 1990 and the second highest inventory level on record and at the current sales pace, there was a 4.6 months' supply of homes available for sale. The median sales price of a pre-owned home rose 7.3 percent from the year-earlier period to $176,000.

Lereah said rising interest rates should slow the pace of home buying. "We do expect, starting in May and going into June, some slowdown in sales," he said.