Home sales in Las Vegas increased to 3,175 in March, up 32.8 percent from the previous month and up 6.5 percent from the same month a year ago, the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported Wednesday.

Inventory of homes for sale declined 9.9 percent from a year ago to 20,548 and median home price dropped 8.7 percent to $136,000.

Realtors association president Rick Shelton attributed the jump in sales to buyers rushing to take advantage of the federal tax credit that expires April 30, combined with consumer belief that home prices in Southern Nevada are likely to increase in the future.

Housing analyst Dennis Smith of Home Builders Research said one of the factors holding back prices in Las Vegas is the appraisal process. Appraisers are being pressured by lenders to bring in "low-ball appraisals," he said.

Realtors are seeing a dramatic spike in short sales, or homes sold for less than the mortgage owed. Short sales now comprise about 25 percent of sales, compared with 8 percent a year ago.

The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative program implemented Monday could go a long way toward increasing short sales in Las Vegas, real estate industry experts said.