Pending Homes Sales Fall, Raising Questions About Recovery

Pending home sales edged lower in February, according to a report Monday from the National Association of Realtors, raising questions about the housing market recovery.

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The pending home sales index slipped by 0.5 percent to 96.5 in February from 97.0 the previous month, but it was up 9.2 percent from the year-earlier period.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected signed contracts, which lead existing home sales by a month or two, to advance 1 percent, after a previously reported 2.0 percent rise.

“The spring homebuying season looks bright because of an elevated level of contract offers so far this year,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said we’re seeing the continuation of an uneven but higher sales pattern. “If activity is sustained near present levels, existing-home sales will see their best performance in five years.”

Pending sales were strongest in the Midwest, where they jumped 6.5 percent — a 19 percent increase from February 2011.

The weakest region for sales was in the South, where they fell 3 percent. In the West, pending sales dropped 2.6 percent in February to 99.3, while in the Northeast they were down 0.6 percent.