By Steve Goldstein
Updated to correct that sales rose 18.6% from August 2010.
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Sales of existing homes climbed 7.7% to a five-month high in August, as previously delayed deals closed, prices fell and rents rose, according to data released Wednesday. The National Association of Realtors reported that sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million, up from 4.67 million in July and above the 4.8 million that economists polled by MarketWatch had anticipated. Compared to August 2010, sales surged 18.6%. Two-thirds of real estate agents polled reported rents rising in August. At the same time, the median price was $168,300, a decline of 5.1% from the same period last year. July prices were revised lower to $171,200 from an initially reported $174,000. Inventories fell 3% to 3.58 million units, representing 8.5 months of supply at current sales rates.