US pend­ing home sales tick up in March for 2nd straight gain

South Florida Times - - BUSINESS - By CHRISTO­PHER RUGABER AP Eco­nomics Writer

WASH­ING­TON (AP) - Slightly more Amer­i­cans signed con­tracts to buy homes in March, yet higher mort­gage rates and a short­age of avail­able houses are weigh­ing on sales.

The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors said Mon­day that its pend­ing home sales in­dex ticked up 0.4 per­cent last month to 107.6. It was the sec­ond straight in­crease, but the in­dex is still three per­cent lower than it was a year ago.

Steady hir­ing and mod­est pay gains are lift­ing de­mand for homes. But ris­ing mort­gage rates, which reached the high­est level in more than four years last week, are re­strain­ing sales. Pur­chases of ex­ist­ing homes ticked up in March but are still slightly be­low year-ago lev­els.

The num­ber of houses avail­able for sale has plunged 7.2 per­cent in the past year. Harsh win­ter weather likely dragged down con­tract sign­ings in the North­east, where they fell 5.6 per­cent. Pend­ing sales rose 2.4 per­cent in the Mid­west and 2.5 per­cent in the South. They fell 1.1 per­cent in the West.

Fierce com­pe­ti­tion among buy­ers for the limited num­ber of avail­able prop­er­ties is push­ing up prices. Home prices na­tion­wide rose 6.3 per­cent in Fe­bru­ary, ac­cord­ing to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller in­dex re­leased last week. That nearly matched a three-year high reached in De­cem­ber.

STOCK PHOTO

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