Pending home sales climbed 5.1% to a reading of 94.1 in March, according to a report released Thursday by the National Association of Realtors.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters predicted a 1.5% increase for the index.

The February index was downwardly revised to 89.5 from 90.8.

Year over year, the pending homes sales index was down 11.4% from last March, when the index was 106.2, but that number was artificially high as a result of the deadline for a homebuyer tax credit.

Regionally, pending sales were mostly higher.

The Northeast saw a 3.2% decrease to 63.4, while sales rose 10.3% to 110.2 in the South and increased 3.0% in the Midwest to 83.5. Sales gained 3.1% to 103.7 in the West.

“Since reaching a cyclical bottom last June, pending home sales have posted an overall gain of 24% and demonstrate the market is recovering on its own,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.

“The index means modest near-term gains in existing-home sales are likely, which would be even stronger if tight mortgage lending criteria returned to normal, safe standards,” Yun said.

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