By Vicki Needham - 03/26/12 02:08 PM EDT
"We’re seeing the continuation of an uneven but higher sales pattern," he said.
“If activity is sustained near present levels, existing-home sales will see their best performance in five years."
NAR is predicting that sales will rise this year between 7 and 10 percent.
The data reflects contracts but not closings — it usually takes a month or two to close on a pending purchase.
After years of record-low sales and an abundance of foreclosures, the housing market is starting to make progress toward more sustained improvement.
Existing homes sales this winter were the best in five years, builders are more confident that growth will be slow but steady this year and banks are starting to lend again.
Regionally, contract signings in the Northeast slipped 0.6 percent to 77.7 percent in February but are 18.4 percent above a year ago.
In the Midwest the index jumped 6.5 percent to 93.8 percent — 19 percent higher than the same time last year.
Meanwhile, signings in the South fell 3 percent to 105.8 percent in February, 7.8 percent above a year ago. In the West, the index declined 2.6 percent in February to 99.3 percent, 1.8 percent below last year.