Homebuying Contracts Match Their Highest Rate in 2 Years

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By Christopher S. Rugaber

WASHINGTON -- Americans signed more contracts to buy previously occupied homes in May, matching the fastest pace in two years. The increase suggests that home sales will rise this summer and the modest housing recovery will continue.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its index of sales agreements increased to 101.1 last month from 95.5 in April. That matches March's reading, the highest since April 2010, when a homebuying tax credit boosted sales.

A reading of 100 is considered healthy. The index is 13.3 percent higher than it was a year ago. It bottomed at 75.88 in June 2010, after the tax credit expired.

Contract signings typically indicate where the housing market is headed. There's a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed deal.

Recent data suggest the housing market has started to recover more than five years after the bubble burst.

Home prices rose in 19 of 20 major U.S. cities in April from March, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index, released Tuesday. A measure of national prices rose 1.3 percent in April, the first increase in seven months.

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Charming Homes You Can Score for $150,000
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Homebuying Contracts Match Their Highest Rate in 2 Years

If you're a buyer, this is the real estate market of your dreams. With home prices severely deflated, you can score an unbelievable deal -- such as these charming abodes available for a mouth-watering $150,000. In a healthy real estate market, they'd be well over twice that. Click through to see what type of pads can be had for such a low price.

Location: Atlanta
Beds/baths: 3/2
Sq. ft.: 1,467

This adorable home was completely renovated and expanded in 2006, with the addition of a master suite, a screened porch, skylights and a new deck. You're getting a huge package for a low price!

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The home has gleaming hardwood floors throughout, and what used to be a side porch is now the perfect office.

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Lounge on the home's screened porch, and enjoy a peaceful summer day (or night) free of bugs!

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Location: Minneapolis
Beds/baths: 3/1
Sq. ft.: 1,250

You're getting big bang for your buck with this home! It has a remodeled bathroom and master suite (with skylights), a modern kitchen and a deck with a fire pit!

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Lush wood envelops the living and dining areas.

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You'll get a spacious backyard perfect for families with young kids, who need room to play! For the adults, pour a cocktail and lounge under an umbrella on the home's new deck.

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Location: Phoenix
Beds/baths: 3/2
Sq. ft.: 1,656

It's getting warmer outside, so drink in this mouth-watering home in Arizona's capital. You'll get mountain views from this house, the perfect summertime oasis.

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The open layout will give you a ton of room, and the floorplan is ideal, with a kitchen off the large living room.

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The large master bedroom with tall ceilings has its own master bath, which has a separate shower, a tub and dual sinks.

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Location: Creve Coeur, Mo.
Beds/baths: 3/3
Sq. ft.: 1,626

An unbelievable price for a daring and stunning piece of architecture! Besides your wicked cool roof, the neighbors will be whispering about how little you paid for the home!

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Check out the super-modern layout, with tall ceilings for an airy feeling. (Not bad for Missouri!)

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The master bedroom is palatial, with sprawling space and its own bathroom.

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Location: Las Vegas
Beds/baths: 3/3
Sq. ft.: 2,145

With over 2,000 square feet on a corner lot in a gated community, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that given the state of the Nevada market this supremely cheap home is a foreclosure, and is being sold “as is.”

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The home was built in 2007 and appears to be in pretty good shape. But as the listing agent stresses, it's completely up to the buyer to make sure the house is in a suitable condition.

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Location: Reno, Nev.
Beds/baths: 3/3
Sq. ft.: 1,592

A home with mountain views, this is quite the stunner for $150,000. This home features an open floor plan with a ceiling fan in each of its three bedrooms. The home was painted only two years ago and was landscaped even more recently.

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The comfortable living room is wired for surround sound and has a fireplace.

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The open kitchen space has granite counters, a large center island, a pantry and a separate eat-in area.

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Location: Denver
Beds/baths: 1/1
Sq. ft.: 698

A cheap price in a great location! A cute condo in this building is walking distance to downtown Denver's high-class shopping and dining.

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The condo unit has a patio overlooking Denver's capitol building and features wood floors throughout.

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The charming condo also features a gas fireplace and a washer/dryer!

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Location: Honolulu
Beds/baths: 1/1
Sq. ft.: 513

The location is what makes the $150,000 price tag on this Honolulu condo. It's a short walk to beaches, shopping and restaurants. Who cares if it's on the small side -- you're in the middle of everything!

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The condo is newly renovated and includes a custom kitchen with stainless steel appliances, a travertine bathroom and wood laminate flooring throughout.

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The building also features a spacious tiled lanai with views of the nearby harbor and a private pool. Get a real slice of Hawaiian living without taking a big slice out of your wallet.

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Sales of new and previously occupied homes are up over the past year, in part because mortgage rates have plunged to the lowest levels on record. Builders are more confident and are starting to build more homes.

New home sales jumped in May to the fastest pace in more than two years. Sales of previously occupied homes fell last month, after nearly touching a two-year high in April. Still, re-sales have risen 9.6 percent in the past 12 months.

The supply of homes for sale remains extremely low. That has helped stabilize prices and could push them higher.

The inventory of pre-existing homes for sale is back down to levels last seen in 2006. And there were 145,000 new homes for sale in May, just 1,000 higher than in April, which was the lowest supply on records dating back to 1963.

Despite the modest gains in housing, the broader economy has weakened in recent months. Employers have added an average of only 73,000 jobs a month in April and May. That's much lower than the average of 226,000 added in the first three months of this year. Some economists worry that the sluggish job market could weigh on home sales just as the housing market is flashing signs of recovery.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

See also:
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