November Pending Home Sales Highest in 2.5 Years

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A measure of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes increased last month to its highest level in two and a half years, the latest sign of improvement in the once-battered housing market.

The National Association of Realtors said Friday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 1.7 percent in November from October to 106.4. That's the highest since April 2010, when a homebuyer tax credit caused a spike in sales. And after excluding those months when the tax credit was available, it's the best reading since February 2007.

The increase followed a 5 percent gain in October and suggests higher sales of previously occupied homes in the coming months. There's generally a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed sale.

In November, signed contracts to buy homes rose in the Northeast and West, and ticked up slightly in the Midwest. They were unchanged in the South.

Home sales are on track to rise 10 percent this year to their highest level in five years, buoyed by ultra-low mortgage rates and steady job gains. The Realtors' group forecasts that sales may rise in 2013 to about 5.1 million. That's still below the more than 5.5 million that is considered consistent with a healthy market.
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