The median price of new single-family homes sold soared 11.2% in August from July, a new record, according to government data.

The gauge hit $256,900 last month, the highest level in more than five years. Compared with July 2011, the 17% jump was the biggest year-over-year surge in eight years, according to the Commerce Department.

Home buyers picked up more properties that were higher-priced; less-expensive homes had a more lackluster month. Sales ticked up in every region across the country except the South.

But total sales dipped slightly, down 0.3% from July to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 373,000. Economists consider a rate of 700,000 to be healthy.

Still, sales last month advanced 27.7% from the same month last year.

A separate report Tuesday found home prices in the nation’s largest cities up 1.6% in July, hitting their highest level in nearly two years but still down about 30% from their mid-2006 peak. It was the fourth straight boost for the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of prices.

In Los Angeles, home prices leaped 1.3% in July from June and 0.4% compared with the year-earlier period.

With other data showing boosts in new housing starts and existing home sales as well as a foreclosure slowdown, economists have begun suggesting that the real estate market may have turned the corner for good since tanking in the recession.

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