WASHINGTON — The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell for the eighth straight month in February, a sign that real estate sales will likely slow over the next few months.
The National Association of Realtors said this week that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index dropped 0.8 percent to 93.9. The index has fallen 10.5 percent over the past 12 months.
Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases: A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a signed contract and a completed sale.
Higher mortgage rates, rising prices and a limited supply of homes have slowed sales since the index peaked in June. Snowstorms appear to have crimped purchases in the Northeast during February.
Most economists expect sales to rebound as the weather improves and the spring buying season begins. But 2014 has started at a far weaker pace than last year. The higher prices and loan rates appear to have made homes unaffordable for some would-be buyers.
The Realtors said last week that sales declined 0.4 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.6 million. It was the sixth decline in seven months. The trade group forecasts that sales will slip to 5 million this year from 5.1 million in 2013.