As Pending Home Sales Rise, Housing Recovery Accelerates

All signs point to a firming housing recovery.

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Pending home sales surged to a five-year high in October, further cementing the notion that the nation's battered housing market is seeing real signs of recovery.

Contract signings—a forward-looking indicator of home sales—increased more than 5 percent over September, according to the National Association of Realtors, and are up more than 13 percent over numbers from this time last year.

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"We've had very good housing affordability conditions for quite some time, but we're seeing more impact now from steady job creation, and rising consumer confidence about home buying now that home prices have clearly turned positive," NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a release.

Still, as has been characteristic of the entire housing recovery, progress toward healthier market conditions have been fragmented, with clear regional patterns. While contract signings surged in the Midwest and South, they lagged in the Northeast and West.

"The Northeast saw some impact from Hurricane Sandy, but limited inventory in the West is keeping a lid on the market," Yun said.

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Although pending sales are just a measure of contracts not closed sales, other indicators in the housing market point to a firmer recovery as well. Home prices continue to trend upwards in most parts of the country according to the latest Case-Shiller home indices and construction activity has seen a big boost as well. Furthermore, mortgage delinquency rates dropped to a post-crisis low in October, an encouraging sign that household finances are improving.

"Not only is the housing market closer to normal than at any other point since the crisis," Jed Kolko, chief economist at real estate website Trulia, wrote in a post this week. "But the recovery is also accelerating."

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  • Meg Handley is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at mhandley@usnews.com.