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The National Association of Realtors (NAR) Pending Home Sales Index rose 2.0% to 97.0 in January, according to data released yesterday.
According to NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun, the numbers inspire hope for an active home-buying season this spring.
"Given more favorable housing market conditions, the trend in contract activity implies we are on track for a more meaningful sales gain this year," he said. "With a sustained downtrend in unsold inventory, this would bring about a broad price stabilization or even modest national price growth, of course with local variations.”
Regionally, the index rose 7.6% in the Northeast, declined 3.8% in the Midwest, increased 7.7% in the South and fell 4.4% in the West.
“Movements in the index have been uneven, reflecting the headwinds of tight credit, but job gains, high affordability and rising rents are hopefully pushing the market into what appears to be a sustained housing recovery,” Yun added. “If and when credit availability conditions return to normal, home sales will likely get a 15% boost, speed up the home-price recovery, and thereby significantly reduce the number of homeowners who are underwater."
Pending home sales are defined as a sale that has been signed, but the transaction has not closed.