Sales and prices for residential real estate continued their upward trend in November nationally and regionally.

The National Association of Realtors reported Thursday that sales of previously owned houses rose 5.9 percent last month from October's levels and were 14.5 percent higher than those of a year ago.

The median U.S. price of $180,600 was 10.1 percent higher than in November 2011, the ninth consecutive monthly year-over-year gain.

"There is healthy market demand," said Lawrence Yun, the Realtors' chief economist, adding that "momentum is building."

In the eight-county Philadelphia region, sales were up 11 percent from October and 30.4 percent from November 2011, according to Prudential Fox & Roach's HomExpert Market Report.

Median prices rose 6.4 percent, from $195,000 a year ago to $207,500. In October, the region's median price - half the houses sold for more, half for less - was $200,000.

"November and December have been like a spring market," said Noelle Barbone, office manager at Weichert Realtors in Media. Sales in November are running 21 percent above last year, with "first-time buyers and quite a few investors in the mix."

Barbone noted that there had been an increase in cash sales, "with parents helping their children buy."

Mary Kate McKinlay, a 2009 Cabrini College graduate who works for an Audubon, Montgomery County, company that manages clinical trials, closed on her first house Nov. 2 in Clifton Heights, Delaware County.

Lured by low interest rates and hoping to spend less than $140,000, she said, she looked at five or six houses in September before signing an agreement for a rehabbed rowhouse, which she purchased for $123,000.

"I'm surprised how quickly it happened," said McKinlay, who was living with her parents in nearby Springfield Township and had hoped to buy by year's end.

"This was the first house I'd looked at," she said, adding that she found the home-buying process "comfortable," while acknowledging that others might not have the same experience.

Barbone said she was hoping the sales pace would continue into the real spring market.

That, she and other industry observers said, will depend partly on continued low 30-year fixed mortgage interest rates, which Freddie Mac pegged Thursday at 3.37 percent, and partly on prices, which rose 0.5 percent nationally in October, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency - a 5.6 percent gain over the year.

"If either get too high," Barbone said, "people may pull back."

Contact Alan J. Heavens

at 215-854-2472, aheavens@phillynews.com

or @alheavens at Twitter.