Pending home sales up for first time in nine months



EXISTING HOME SALES

The “under contract” sign became more common in March as winter’s end encouraged more home buyers to check out the market.











Kent Hoover
Washington Bureau Chief

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Good news on housing — pending sales of existing homes rose in March for the first time in nine months.

The National Association of Realtors’ index of pending home sales, which is based on contract signings, rose 3.4 points to 97.4 in March. That’s still nearly 8 points below where it was a year earlier, however.

Pending home sales are strongest in the South, where the index gained 5.6 points to hit 112.7, and weakest in the Northeast, which rose by only 1.4 points to 78.8. A score of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity in 2001.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said the index’s increase was due to the end of “a dismal winter.”

“More buyers got an opportunity to look at homes last month and are beginning to make contract offers,” he said. “Sales activity is expected to steadily pick up as more inventory reaches the market, and from ongoing job creation in the economy.”

The increase in contracts for homes was welcome news because actual sales of existing homes were flat in March.

Yun expects U.S. sales of existing homes to top 4.9 million this year, but fall below 2013’s 5.1 million. With inventory shortages in much of the country, average prices will grow by more than 6 percent, he predicts.