Stifled by a shortage of listings, home sales in the Twin Cities metro slipped last month, but prices posted significant gains, especially among entry-level houses.

During July, buyers signed 5,560 purchase agreements, 3.1 percent fewer than last year, while the total number of properties available at the end of the month fell 18.1 percent to 14,457, the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors said Friday.

The median price of all sales during the month was $239,900, a 6.6 percent increase from last year.

The housing market typically takes a summer breather, and this year was no exception. Sales, prices and the pace of the market during July slowed slightly compared with June. But by virtually every ­measure, the market was stronger than last year.

“Our days-on-market indicator tells us that most homes are selling pretty quickly,” said Judy Shields, president of the association.

Throughout the metro area, properties priced from $190,000 to $250,000 have sold the fastest and for the biggest price gains. The average market time in that price range was 54 days and on average sellers got close to the asking price or more.

The average percent of ­original list price received at sale was 98.4 percent, the highest figure for any July since 2005. And the cumulative days on market until sale fell 15.9 percent to 53 days, the fastest since early 2007.

Generally, the higher the price, the longer it takes properties to sell, especially those with stairs and in outlying suburbs. Houses priced at more than $1 million took 174 days on average to sell.

“Those selling properties above the $500,000 mark know that patience is a ­virtue even in our current environment,” said Cotty Lowry, president-elect of the association. “The supply-demand balance in that segment is less competitive than the entry-level price points, plus consumers are limiting how much house they buy.”

The number of new listings to hit the market was 5.5 percent lower than at the same time last year, putting pressure on buyers to make quick decisions.

At the current sales pace, there were enough houses on the market at the end of the month to last 2.9 months, the lowest July figure on record since the beginning of 2003. Generally, five to six months of supply is considered a ­balanced market.