Sales of existing single-family homes increased 2.1 percent in August despite an increase in mortgage interest rates, the National Association of Realtors reports.

The group's monthly survey reported an annual sales rate of 3.40 million existing dwellings in August vs. 3.33 million homes in July. The figures were adjusted for seasonal factors."Sales of previously owned homes remained at a healthy level during August, reflecting continued buyer strength in certain regions of the country," the association said.

"The month-to-month rise shows an upward trend over the last three months, however, the August rate was 1.2 percent lower than the August 1989 rate," the group said.

The median price for existing homes was $97,000 in August, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., Freddie Mac, said the average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose last month to 10.24 percent from 9.84 percent.

"Despite rising interest rates, the resale market is stable and slightly better than July," said Norman Flynn, president of the national association. "The strength we see largely is due to people who are buying homes in less populous areas and recreational areas."

By region, the association said "sales pace increases were seen in the Midwest and the South from July to August, while the Northeast and West experienced declines."

In the Northeast, the August resale rate dipped 1.8 percent and the median price last month was $144,900. In the Midwest, resales rose 2.2 percent and the median price was $75,000.

In the South, the resale rate climbed 6.9 percent and the median price was $86,900. In the West, August housing resales fell 3.8 percent and the median price was $141,600.