WASHINGTON - More Americans signed contracts to purchase homes in May, as pending sales climbed to their highest level in more than nine years.
The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 0.9 percent to 112.6 last month. The index has increased 10.4 percent over the past 12 months, putting it just below the April 2006 level -- which was more than a year before the housing bust triggered the Great Recession.
The steady job growth coupled with low but rising mortgage rates has created greater urgency to buy homes. The gains reflect both a stronger economy but also the pressures to purchase a home before both prices and the cost of borrowing become potentially unaffordable.
Completed sales of existing homes jumped 5.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million, the Realtors said last week. Median home prices climbed 7.9 percent over the past 12 months to $228,700, about $1,700 shy of the July 2006 peak.
The recent gains are not evenly spread.
Pending sales increased in the higher-priced Northeast and West markets last month, while dipping in the Midwest and South.
Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases. A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a contract and a completed sale.