US pending home sales at seven-month high

Seth Perlman/AP/File
In April, this new Springfield, Ill., home was under contract. Pending home sales shot up that month, the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday.

Pending home sales – a forward-looking gauge of residential real estate activity – climbed in April for the third month in a row.

The pending home sales index rose 6.7 percent from the month earlier and stood at 90.3, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Tuesday. That's its highest level since September and actually higher than a year ago.

Pending home sales count real estate transactions where a contract has been signed but the deal has not yet closed.

Positive string

Tuesday's real estate report is the latest in a string of economic data this week that suggest the economy is moving toward a recovery.

"The $8,000 first-time buyer tax credit is beginning to impact the market,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, in a release. “Since first-time buyers must finalize their purchase by Nov. 30 to get the credit, we expect greater activity in the months ahead, and that should spark more sales by repeat buyers.”

Northeast leads rise

The Northeast showed the biggest improvement, soaring 32.6 percent in April. The South slipped but remains 3.5 percent above year-ago levels.

Housing affordability rose in April to its second-highest reading and near the record set in January, the NAR also reported. A median-income family can now afford a $296,800 home if it puts 20 percent down and devotes a quarter of its gross income to mortgage payments.

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