March 27, 2014 10:10 AM, EDT
Existing Home Sales Decline for Eighth Month

Contracts to purchase previously owned homes fell in February for an eighth straight month, a sign of further weakness in the industry.

The index of pending home sales decreased 0.8% after a 0.2% drop the prior month that was previously reported as a gain, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed March 27. The median forecast of 39 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 0.2% rise.

Colder-than-normal weather probably played a role in discouraging prospective buyers faced with rising mortgage rates, higher prices and a limited supply of cheaper properties.

“For housing, it’s been primarily an issue of bad weather,” Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Inc. in Detroit, said before the report. “Not a lot of buyers were enticed to go out and look, and not a lot of sellers put their best foot forward” in terms of staging the property or hosting an open house.

“Conditions will improve as the weather improves.” he said.

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from a drop of 3% to a gain of 4% after a previously reported increase of 0.1%. The index fell to 93.9, the lowest since October 2011.

Two of four regions, the South and Northeast, saw a decrease from the previous month, the report showed.

Contract signings decreased 10.2% from a year earlier on an unadjusted basis, the most since April 2011, after a 9.3% drop in the prior 12-month period.