The Pending Home Sales Index bumped up 1.5% to 105.7 in March, according to a National Association of Realtors report released today.
After dropping a revised 1% in February, market analysts' expectations of a 0.7% increase were more than doubled for March.
The index is based on contract signings (with sales usually finalized one or two months later) and is benchmarked to 2001 contract activity. (An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year the association examined).
The monthly index has stayed above year-ago levels for the past 23 months, and according to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, markets appear to be leveling off:
"Contract activity has been in a narrow range in recent months, not from a pause in demand but because of limited supply. Little movement is expected in near-term sales closings, but they should edge up modestly as the year progresses."
On a regional level, the South made the largest March gains, up 2.7% to 120.0. The West increased 1.5% to 102.9, while the Midwest bumped up 0.3% to 103.8 and the Northeast remained steady at a lackluster 82.8.
Looking ahead, the NAR expects existing home sales to increase 6.5% to 7% over 2012's numbers, with a median price tag 7.5% higher than last year's.