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Signed contracts to buy US homes dips slightly

Despite the drop in pending homes sales, signed contracts are 8.4 percent higher than a year ago.

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Despite the drop in pending homes sales, signed contracts are 8.4 percent higher than a year ago.

WASHINGTON — Fewer Americans signed contracts to buy homes in February, but the level stayed near a three-year high, and analysts believe sales of previously occupied homes will keep rising in the coming months.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its seasonally adjusted index for pending home sales dipped to 104.8 in February. That’s down from January’s reading of 105.2 — the highest since April 2010, when a home buyer’s tax credit was boosting sales.

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Signed contracts are 8.4 percent higher than a year ago.

There is generally a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed sale.

In February, completed sales of previously occupied homes rose to a seasonally adjusted pace of 4.98 million, the fastest in more than three years. The gains in both signed contracts and completed sales point to a housing recovery that is strengthening, although resales remain below the 5.5 million that are consistent with healthy markets.

Steady hiring and near-record-low mortgage rates have encouraged more Americans to buy homes. More people are also moving out on their own after living with friends and relatives in the recession.

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