Existing home sales rose 0.4% in January to a 4.92 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, according to a National Association of Realtors (NAR) report released today. The new numbers edged past analyst expectations, and represent a welcome change after December's decline.

According to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, the slow growth is a supply side issue: "Buyer traffic is continuing to pick up, while seller traffic is holding steady. In fact, buyer traffic is 40% above a year ago, so there is plenty of demand but insufficient inventory to improve sales more strongly. We've transitioned into a seller's market in much of the country."

According to the report, the average time on market for existing homes was 71 days in January, two days less than in December and four weeks less than January 2012.

Long-term trends continue to point toward a housing market recovery. Existing home sales are 9.1% above January 2012's numbers, while median home prices are up 12.3% to $173,600 in the last year. January's price increase was the 11th consecutive month of year-over-year improvement, and represents the largest YOY gain since November 2005 .