09/21/2011 10:13 EDT | Updated 11/21/2011 05:12 EST

Sales of previously occupied US homes rose in August, driven by increase in foreclosure sales

WASHINGTON - The number of Americans who bought previously occupied homes rose in August. But sales were driven by an increase in foreclosures, evidence the housing market remains weak.

The National Association of Realtors says home sales rose 7.7 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million homes. That's below the 6 million that economists say is consistent with a healthy housing market.

Last month's pace was slightly ahead of the 4.91 million sold in 2010, the weakest sales year in 13 years.

Home at risk of foreclosure made up 31 per cent of sales, up from 29 per cent in July.

First-time homebuyers were unchanged at 32 per cent of all sales. The normally make up 50 per cent of sales in healthy markets.