Pending home sales make first gains in nine months

Pending home sales rose in March for the first time in the past nine months, a good sign for the housing recovery.

Sales, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 3.4 percent to 97.4 from an upwardly revised 94.2 in February, but is 7.9 percent below March 2013, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said Monday.

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"After a dismal winter, more buyers got an opportunity to look at homes last month and are beginning to make contract offers,” said Lawrence Yun, the NAR chief economist.

There is an expectation that would-be buyers will hit the streets this spring in search of a home even amid rising prices and mortgage rates.

"Sales activity is expected to steadily pick up as more inventory reaches the market, and from ongoing job creation in the economy," Yun said.

Regionally, pending sales rose in three areas.

The Northeast saw a 1.4 percent increase, there was a 5.6 percent gain in the South and a 5.7 percent improvement in the West.

Sales in the Midwest slipped 0.8 percent last month.

The slow start to the year because of severe winter weather could keep total sales from surpassing 2013 numbers.

Existing-home sales are expected to total just over 4.9 million this year, below the nearly 5.1 million in 2013.

However, inventory shortages could boost the median existing-home price by upward of 7 percent this year.