Sales of previously owned U.S. homes held near a two-year high in September, restrained by a lack of supply that is pushing prices higher.

Purchases of existing houses, tabulated when a contract closes, decreased 1.7 percent to a 4.75 million annual rate, matching the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed today in Washington. The median prices from a year earlier jumped by the most since 2005 as inventories dwindled.

And from Reuters:

All-cash transactions accounted for 28 percent of last month's sales, and investors, the majority of who are all-cash buyers, accounted for 18 percent.

Private-equity firms such as Colony Capital LLC and Blackstone Group LP, have converged on Phoenix, Atlanta and other distressed areas in search of low-priced properties to buy and rent out, helping to stabilize the markets. These types of investors have raised as much as $8 billion to buy as many as 80,000 single-family homes to manage as rentals, according to a Sept. 21 report by Keefe Bruyette & Woods Inc.

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