Pending home sales increased 3.2% to a reading of 97.6 in July from an unrevised 94.6 in June, according to an index released yesterday by the National Association of Realtors.

The six consecutive months of gains in pending home sales marks the first time since its inception in 2001 that such a streak occurred, NAR said in a release.

Thomson Reuters' poll of economists had predicted a 96.1 reading.

Year-over-year the pending homes sales index was up 12.0% from its reading of 87.1 last July.

"The recovery is broad-based across many parts of the country. Housing affordability has been at record highs this year with the added stimulus of a first-time buyer tax credit," NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said.

"Other buyers are taking advantage of low home values before prices turn higher," he continued. "Nationally, the typical mortgage payment now takes less than 25% of a middle-income family's monthly income to buy a median-priced home, with payment percentages so far in 2009 being the lowest on record dating back to 1970."

"As long as home buyers stay within their budget," Yun added, "mortgage payments will be very manageable."

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