The number of homes that went under contract rose in March, marking the first gain in nine months, the National Association of Realtors reported today.

Pending home sales — a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings — climbed 3.4 percent from February to March, but were down 7.9 percent from the same time a year ago, according to NAR.

“After a dismal winter, more buyers got an opportunity to look at homes last month and are beginning to make contract offers,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Sales activity is expected to steadily pick up as more inventory reaches the market, and from ongoing job creation in the economy.”

Pending home sales in the Northeast increased 1.4 percent in March, slipped 0.8 percent in the Midwest, rose 5.6 percent in the South and increased 5.7 percent in the West.

Unusually cold weather and a slowdown in job growth have taken a toll on the housing market in recent months, according to Capital Economics.

But since those factors are temporary, the market seems likely to bounce back, according to the research firm. Recent negative housing statistics are also “hard to square” with the 11-point increase in NAR’s Realtor confidence index for single-family homes in March, the research firm noted in a report.

In the absence of “an obvious economic explanation for their recent sharp falls, we are expecting the housing market activity data to show an improvement from here,” the report said.

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