Pending home sales rose 5.3% to a reading of 102.9 in March from a revised 8.3% increase to 97.7 in February, originally reported as an 8.2% gain to 97.6, according to an index released yesterday by the National Association of Realtors.

Thomson Reuters’ poll of economists had predicted a 101.4 reading.

Year-over-year, the pending homes sales index was up 21.1% from last March, when the index was 85.0.

Regionally, pending sales were mostly higher. The Northeast saw a 3.3% decrease to 75.1, while sales rose 1.2% to 98.9 in the Midwest. In the South, sales climbed 12.7% to 121.2, while in the West, pending sales increased 1.9% to 99.9.

Sales in the Northeast are 27.2% higher than March 2009. Sales in the Midwest are up 18.5% from a year ago, while sales in the South rose 28.3% year-over-year, and sales in the West the index rose 8.8%.

“Clearly the home buyer tax credit has helped stabilize the market. In the months immediately following the expiration of the tax credit, we expect measurably lower sales,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Later in the second half of the year, and into 2011, home sales will likely become self-sustaining if the economy can add jobs at a respectable pace, and from a return of buyer demand as they see home values stabilizing.”

“Another encouraging sign is the improvement in the availability for jumbo and second-home mortgages,” Yun said. “As bank balance sheets strengthen, it is just a matter of time before lending of non-government-backed mortgages steadily opens up.”

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