Pending home sales up

By Tiffany Hsu Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The job market might still be trying to find its footing, but with pending home sales at a nearly two-year high, the housing market at least seems to be heading back on track.

The measure, which represents signed contracts for home purchases in the U.S. and helps forecast finalized sales, rose 4.1 percent in March to 101.4 on a monthly index from the National Association of Realtors.

That’s the highest level since April 2010, when the index reached 111.3 ahead of a tax-credit deadline. March’s number, coming off a 0.4 percent gain in February to 97.4, also lends credence to reports that first-quarter closings in 2012 were the best in five years.

Pending home sales for last month came in 12.8 percent higher than the 89.9 the index reached in March 2011.

“The housing market has clearly turned the corner,” said the association’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, in a statement. “Rising sales are bringing down inventory and creating much more balanced conditions around the county, which means home prices will be rising in more areas as the year progresses.”

Analysts from Credit Suisse said record affordability helped, as did “the incredibly warm winter,” even though they noted that the upward trend for pending sales started in the fall.

This week brought a round of encouraging housing figures. Home prices are still falling, but the speed of the drop is slowing. Although new home sales in March fell 7.1 percent, the government revised the February figures sharply upward.


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