Columbus Board of Realtors President Gary Parsons said that home sales increased for the fourth straight month in May and the average sale price climbed to its highest amount in 2009.

Columbus Board of Realtors President Gary Parsons said that home sales increased for the fourth straight month in May and the average sale price climbed to its highest amount in 2009.

The average sale price last month was only slightly higher than May 2008 at $168,576, but it was up 12.9 percent compared to April. Homes on average sold for $231 more than during May 2008.

Parsons said competition among consumers, especially first-time buyers using the $8,000 tax credit, is continuing to drive the market's recovery.

"Sellers who are pricing their homes competitively are reaping the benefits of buyers who are equipped with the tools and incentives to leave the fence like never before," Parsons said. "The spring has been busy in central Ohio, and with only 160 days left to take advantage of the tax credit, we expect the summer to be even busier. Lower-priced homes and foreclosed properties continue to be active in our market, attracting many first-time buyers"

Parsons said inventory levels continued to drop compared to 2008. There were 14,849 homes for sale in central Ohio last month, down 17.1 percent from a year ago. New listings also were down 24.6 percent in May compared to last year.

"The basic economic principles of supply and demand influence home prices, so the fact that prices are increasing, not only month to month, but year over year, is a very positive indication in the strength of our market and the level of demand," Parsons said. "As those properties are sold and fewer homes are added to the market, central Ohio will continue to remain a fairly balanced housing market."

The 1,809 homes sold in May represented the highest number of homes sold in a month since September. However, that total was still down 12.4 percent compared to May 2008.