Number of Under-Contract Homes Dropped in March

Chicago–The number of homes under contract for sale in March declined to a record low for the second month in a row, according to a National Association of Realtors report released Wednesday.The Chicago-based real estate agent group’s Pending Home Sales Index dropped to 83 in March–a 1 percent decline from the downwardly revised 83.8 February reading, said.The March reading marked a 20.1 percent drop from the same period in 2007 and was 35 percent lower than the index’s April 2005 high point.In 2001–the year the index premiered–the reading was 100. The NAR slightly increased its new home sales prediction, forecasting first quarter sales would drop 14.4 percent compared to 2007. The group previously had suggested sales would fall 14.5. percent.The group’s projection that existing home sales for the year would fall 4.7 percent remained unchanged.The second quarter new home sales forecast was revised downward. The association said Wednesday that the U.S. housing market should see a 39.2 percent decline, compared to its original 32.7 percent estimate.However, new home sales for next year are expected to increase 10.1 percent, according to NAR. The group’s prior prediction was for a 4.6 percent increase in 2009.