Sales of existing homes dropped nationally and in much of South Jersey in September, tailing off after spring and summer increases.

The National Association of Realtors on Friday reported sales of previously owned houses sales fell 1.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.75 million.

In Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties combined, 471 homes were sold, a 4 percent dip from last September, according to regional Multiple Listing Service data.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said national monthly sales were down, but they are still 11 percent above this time last year.

“Despite occasional month-to-month setbacks, we’re experiencing a genuine recovery,” Yun said in a statement. “More people are attempting to buy homes than are able to qualify for mortgages.”

For South Jersey counties in September, Atlantic County saw 209 sales; Cape May had 221; and Cumberland had 41 sales, according to MLS data, which include properties listed only through the service.

Paul Chiolo, a broker at Keller Williams Oceanside Realty in the Wildwoods, said his agency’s September was better than last year’s. Attitudes to the housing market and the economy seem to have gotten better, he said.

“I don’t know if you call it consumer confidence, but with the general atmosphere of the market, the feeling has significantly increased compared to last year,” he said. “I really believe last year was the bottom of our market.”

“When I see (number of ) days on market shrinking and inventory being absorbed at a quicker clip ... I don’t like to say it’s an improving market, but we’re not in a declining market anymore,” he said.

Home sales — particularly among second-home owners — typically slow in early September before picking up later in the month and carrying through November, he said.

Chiolo said his agency had a strong summer, aided by high-end waterfront sales at the Grand at Diamond Beach in Lower Township, a 12-story condominium just outside Wildwood Crest.

In July 2011, an auction of about two dozen condominiums — selling for an average of $500,000 to $600,000 — was used to help set the market price for the remaining units. The event ended up with condo prices down about 10 percent, he said.

Another 86 units were sold after that auction, most of them this year, and four were resold, he said.

Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pa., and owner of a home in Margate, said the overall trend in the industry is existing home sales are up from last year, despite monthly fluctuations.

“The relatively modest September pullback in home sales after a large August rise indicates that the housing recovery remains on track,” he said in a statement.

The National Association of Realtors said on Friday that foreclosures and short sales accounted for 24 percent of September sales nationally, up from 22 percent in August.

Foreclosures on average sold for 21 percent below market value; short sales for 13 percent below, the NAR reported.

First-time homebuyers made up 32 percent of purchasers in September, little changed from August. In healthy markets, about 40 percent of buyers are first timers.

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