WASHINGTON – U.S. sales of existing homes tumbled 2.5 percent in April – with the costs of buying a home jumping and would-be buyers facing a persistent shortage of properties on the market.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that homes sold last month at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 5.46 million, down from 5.60 million in February. Home sales have dropped 1.4 percent over the past year, largely because the number of sales listings has declined 6.3 percent.

The relatively healthy job market has bolstered demand to purchase homes. But the inventory shortage, rising prices and higher mortgage costs are weighing on the real estate market.

The dearth of homes for sale and climbing mortgage rates have amplified the competition for buying a home. Homes lasted a median of just 26 days on the market in April, down from 39 days a year ago. Buyers are eager to close sales before higher borrowing costs further erode the affordability of their homes.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the interest charges on a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.66 percent this week, the highest level since May 2011.

With supply levels so low, the median sales price has risen 5.3 percent from a year ago to $257,900.

Home sales in April fell in the Northeast, South and West. Sales were unchanged in the Midwest.