WASHINGTON Contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes fell in March as a lack of properties for sale curbed activity, the National Association of Realtors said on Thursday.
Its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed last month, declined 0.8 percent to 111.4, following a surge in February.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast pending home sales falling 1.0 percent last month. Pending home sales were still up 0.8 percent from a year ago.
Pending home contracts become sales after a month or two, and last month's fall showed the constraints on the market from a lack of inventory, NAR said.
A lack of homes for sale has also been pushing up prices. In March, 42 percent of homes sold at or above their list price, the second highest level since NAR began keeping records in December 2012.
Three of the four regions of the country experienced declines in contracts signed last month. Both the Northeast and West saw drops of 2.9 percent, while contracts fell 1.2 percent in the Midwest and rose 1.2 percent in the South.
(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Andrea Ricci)