Pending home sales rose 8.2% to a reading of 97.6 in February, far exceeding economists’ estimates and a positive sign for the housing market heading into the spring season, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported today.

The rise in pending sales “may signal the early stages of a second surge of home sales this spring,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, said in a statement.

The pending sales figure for January was revised lower to 90.2 from 90.4 reported last month. Economists were expecting February’s pending home sales reading to decline to 90.2, according to the median estimate from Thomson Reuters.

“Anecdotally, we’re hearing about a rise of activity in recent weeks with ongoing reports of multiple offers in more markets, so the March data could demonstrate additional improvement from buyers responding to the tax credit,” Yun said, referring to the home buyers tax credit that Congress extended through June last year.

Pending sales data reflect contracts and not closings, which usually occur with a lag time of one to two months. Existing home sales fell 0.6% February to 5.02 million sales at an annual rate and fell 7.2% in January. New home sales for February fell 2.2% to a record low in February.

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