The number of contracts to buy houses signed during the month of January was the highest its been since August 2013, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors. The Pending Home Sales Index – a forward-looking indicator of future home sales – rose 1.7 percent over the previous month and is now 8.4 percent higher than it was at the same time last year. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says the results prove there is underlying demand in the market. “Contract activity is convincingly up compared to a year ago despite comparable inventory levels,” Yun said. “The difference this year is the positive factors supporting stronger sales, such as slightly improving credit conditions, more jobs, and slower price growth.” According to Yun, these factors were enough to outweigh the fact that the number of homes for sale during the month was low. Tight supply puts upward pressure on home prices and could be a factor going into the spring season, which is historically the housing market’s busiest. Still, the NAR expects modest sales gains heading into the buying season. More here.