WASHINGTON (AP) — Home sales rose in January to the highest pace in nearly two years, flashing signs of health ahead of the spring-buying season.

The National Association of Realtors says home sales increased 4.3 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.57 million. That's the highest level since May 2010.

Sales have risen in three of the past four months. But they remain well below the 6 million that economists equate with a healthy market.

First-time buyers, who are critical to a recovery, are increased slightly to 33 percent of sales. In healthy markets, first-time buyers make up at least 40 percent.

Homes at risk of foreclosure made up 35 percent of sales last month, up from 32 percent in December.