U.S. homes sold in September at their fastest clip this year, yet the housing market has yet to fully shake off a slowdown that began in the middle of 2013.

The National Association of Realtors says sales of existing homes rose 2.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million. Still, the sales rate has dropped 1.7% over the past 12 months.

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Investors have retreated from the market over the past year. Their departures are being offset by existing homeowners who are upgrading to more expensive properties or downsizing after having raised their children.

Rising prices through much of 2013, weak income growth and tighter credit standards have priced out many would-be buyers. Median home prices rose 5.6% over the past 12 months to $209,700.

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“All cash buyers still account for a quarter of purchases, but that’s down from a third a year earlier, and investors’ share has also dropped over that period,” says Avery Shenfeld of CIBC World Market Economics.

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