More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in January as lower mortgage rates appeared to give the real estate market a boost.
The National Association of Realtors says its pending home sales index rose 4.6 percent last month to 103.2. The rebound has come as average 30-year mortgage rates have fallen since peaking at nearly 5 percent in early November. Still, higher mortgage rates in 2018 depressed pending sales by 2.3 percent over the past 12 months.
The index improved in the Northeast, Midwest, South and West in January. Signed contracts jumped 8.9 percent in the South, where homes are generally more affordable. But in the pricier West, the increase was just 0.3 percent.
Pending sales are a barometer of home purchases that are completed a month or two later.