Home sales contracts jump in March, mortgage rates dip


WASHINGTON – The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy U.S. homes rose in March, the latest sign the battered housing market is slowly improving.

A separate report Thursday said the average rate on 30-year fixed mortgages has dipped to near its record low, keeping home-buying and refinancing affordable.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on 30-year loans averaged 3.88% this week, down from 3.9% last week. In February, the rate hit 3.87%, lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The 30-year loan is the most common financing option for home buyers.

The average on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, popular with homeowners who are refinancing, dipped to 3.12%, from 3.13% last week. The national average hit an all-time low of 3.11% two weeks ago.

In the home sales report, the National Association of Realtors says its index of sales agreements increased 4.1% last month to a reading of 101.4, highest since April 2010, when buyers could qualify for a federal home-buying tax credit. A reading of 100 is considered healthy.

Contract signings typically indicate where the housing market is headed. There’s a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed deal, and not all contracts end with sold homes.

More signings are among recent signs of a slight pickup in the housing market. New home sales fell in March but have risen over the past year. Builders are also more confident.

By David Wallace, The Republic/File
Source: USA Today Money

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