Home sales in Maine rose 8.7 percent in April, the ninth consecutive month of higher sales volume, according to the Maine Association of Realtors.

A total of 824 homes were sold during April, up from 758 homes in April 2011. Last month’s median sale price for those homes was up 4.48 percent over April 2011, at $167,950, according to Maine Real Estate Information System Inc.

“Nine consecutive months of higher (year-over-year) sales volume, plus two consecutive months of increased median sale prices, gives both buyers and sellers solid reasons to enter the market,” said Tina Lucas, president of the Maine Association of Realtors.

Lucas noted that much of the recent activity is from first-time home buyers. New buyers “realize now is the right time to take advantage of the historic low interest rates and attractive pricing,” she said.

The increases in Maine trailed the gains nationally. Sales rose 9.9 percent nationwide compared with a year earlier. The median sale price rose 10.4 percent, to $178,000, in April, according to the National Association of Realtors.

In the Northeast, sales increased 19.2 percent and the median sale price rose 8.8 percent, to $256,600.

“I’d expect to see national and regional housing numbers exceed Maine for some time to come because the nation and the Northeast declined further in the recession and there’s more recovery to be done,” said Charles Colgan, professor of public policy and management at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service. “Maine also has slower population growth.”

Home sales are driven by banks’ willingness to lend money and consumer confidence, Colgan said.

“People shy away from big purchases when confidence levels are low. When confidence starts to resume, you start to see big purchases like homes and cars,” Colgan said.

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: [email protected]