Sales of existing homes in Cape May and Cumberland counties jumped in November, and the National Association of Realtors on Thursday reported sales nationwide rose about 6 percent.

National home sales reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in November, the highest level in three years, the Realtor group said.

Locally, 278 existing homes were sold in Cape May County, 76 more than the previous November, according to local Multiple Listing Service data. In Cumberland County, 65 homes were sold, 17 more than November 2011.

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Sales were steady in Atlantic County, with 195 in November this year and last, MLS data showed.

Cape May County Association of Realtors President Brian Groetsch Jr. said fall house-sale closings in seasonal areas typically reflect summer activity, when prospective second-home buyers on vacation look for properties.

“Today, with tighter lending regulations, closings that might have happened early in the fall in September and October are likely stretching out into November and December,” said Groetsch, a broker-associate with Re/Max at the Shore.

“I would say it’s also an indication of the fence-sitters who were waiting out the election as well. I’d like to think we’ll see strong results in 2013 now that there’s more clarity out there in terms of consumer confidence,” he said.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, said in a statement that areas affected by Hurricane Sandy experienced disruptions in sales. However, overall sales in the Northeast increased in November, as storm-related problems were offset by gains in other areas, he said.

Grace Curran, broker/owner of Grace Curran & Family Real Estate in Sea Isle City, said investors — predominantly baby boomers looking for second homes — are returning to the market.

“They have been on the fence waiting for several different factors to happen, such as the bottom of the market, the election and interest rates staying low,” Curran said. “They do not want to wait another four years to make this investment.”

Nationally, homes sold at foreclosure or short sales at deep discounts represented about 22 percent of November sales, down from 24 percent in October and 29 percent in November 2011, the NAR reported.

In the region and the state, a second wave of foreclosures has been going through the processing pipeline. California-based foreclosure tracking firm RealtyTrac estimated in November it would take New Jersey about 17 months to work through the backlog.

“We’re seeing demand so far at least keep up with what is coming onto the market,” said Anthony D’Alicandro, president of the Atlantic City and County Board of Realtors and owner of Coldwell Banker Casa Bella Realtors in Linwood.

In the past few months, Groetsch noticed banks and lenders more willing to invest in property repairs and renovations to sell distressed homes at market value rather than at steep discounts.

For example, at a well-worn rental condo in Wildwood, Groetsch said, “They’re investing in re-carpeting, repainting and touching things up so they can get full value of it,” he said. “There will still be a case-by-case basis … but it’s a good sign.”

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