A pending home sales index maintained by the National Association of Realtors showed an annual gain in September for the 17th month in a row.

NAR’s latest Pending Home Sales Index, released today, showed the number of existing homes under contract in September up 0.3 percent from August and 14.5 percent from a year ago.

The index, which represents contracts signed but not yet closed, has settled at 99.5 in September. An index score of 100 is equal to the average level of sales contract activity in 2001, a year in which sales were in line with historical norms. Signed contracts typically close one or two months after the sign date.

"The level of pending contracts has remained very steady implying that this recovery is holding its momentum," said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. Yun said the steady and strong year-over-year increase in the index "is pointing in the right direction."

All regions saw double-digit year-over-year PHSI increases, except for the West, where it rose just 0.8 percent to 106.9 for the year (and 4.3 percent for the month) on account of tight inventory.

The Northeast saw the largest yearly jump in September of any region with a 26.1 percent increase to an index level of 79.3, which represented a 1.4 percent bump from August to September in the region.

In the Midwest, the index rose 19.3 percent from September 2011 to reach 89.5, which, however, represents a 5.8 percent dip from August’s level.

And in the South, pending home sales jumped 17.6 percent from September 2011 to settle at an index level of 111.5, a 1 percent jump from the index level in August.

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