Signed contracts to buy homes up 0.3 percent last month; mortgage financing still an obstacle

Economic Indicators Associated Press

The number of Americans signing contracts to buy homes ticked up slightly in September, as it remained difficult to qualify for mortgage financing.

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The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 0.3 percent over the past month to 105. The index remains half a percentage point below its 2013 average, although 1 percent higher than a year ago.

Tight credit and price increases through the middle of 2013 have limited buying activity. About 15 percent of the real estate agents surveyed for the index say they couldn't close a deal because the buyer was unable to obtain a mortgage.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases. A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a contract and a completed sale.