Pending home sales decreased 0.8% to an index reading of 111.4 in March, after an unrevised 5.5% rise to 112.3 in February, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001.

Year-over-year the pending homes sales index increased 0.8% from last March, when the index was 110.5.

Regionally, pending sales were mostly lower. The Northeast saw a 2.9% decline to 99.1, while sales fell 1.2% to 109.6 in the Midwest. Sales dropped 2.9% in the West to 94.5 and sales gained 1.2% in the South to 129.4.

“Home shoppers are coming out in droves this spring and competing with each other for the meager amount of listings in the affordable price range,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said. “In most areas, the lower the price of a home for sale, the more competition there is for it. That’s the reason why first-time buyers have yet to make up a larger share of the market this year, despite there being more sales overall.”

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters predicted the index would be down 1.0%

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Gary Siegel

Gary Siegel

Gary Siegel has been at The Bond Buyer since 1989, currently covering economic indicators and the Federal Reserve system.