The National Association of Realtors' (NAR) gauge of future home sales rose 3.5% in November after a 9.2% jump in October.

It is the second consecutive monthly increase for NAR's pending sales index and the trade group is expecting a 7.8% increase in existing home sales in 2011.

"In addition to exceptional affordability conditions, steady improvements in the economy are helping bring buyers into the market," NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said on Thursday.

The pending sales index rose to 92.2 in November from 89.1 in the prior month. The seasonally adjusted index is based on newly signed contracts on existing homes that should go to closing in a month or two.

The index is down 5% from November 2009.

The Realtors are forecasting that existing home sales will rise to 5.12 million in 2011, up from 4.82 million in 2010. This 7.8% increase would bring sales up to the 2009 level.

Meanwhile, NAR economists are expecting home prices to remain stable.

"The median existing-home price could rise 0.6% to $173,700 in 2011 from $172,700 in 2010, which was essentially unchanged from 2009," NAR said.

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