Pending home sales rise in November

Indicators point to gradual housing recovery

Pending home sales rose again in November, part of a broad trend in recent months that could point to a gradual recovery in 2011, the National Association of Realtors’ chief economist said.

NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index rose 3.5 percent from October to November, but remained 5 percent below its level a year ago. That compares with a 20.7 percent year-over-year drop in October.

The index is a forward-looking indicator, reflecting contracts rather than closings, which normally occur one or two months later. An index score of 100 is the average level of contract activity in 2001, the first year that index data was collected.

The index fell sharply in May after the expiration of the federal homebuyer tax credits on April 30, from 110.9 to 77.7. Since then, the index has risen on a monthly basis four out of the past six months, hitting 92.2 in November.