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Pending US home sales fell 1.7% in October amid short supply

FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2019, file photo an under contract sign is posted outside a home Park Avenue in Richmond, Va. On Wednesday, Nov. 27, the National Association of Realtors releases its October report on pending home sales, which are seen as a barometer of future purchases. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON, DC – Americans signed fewer contracts to purchase homes in October, as would-be buyers struggled to find available properties.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its pending home sales index, which measures the number of purchase contracts signed, fell 1.7% last month. The signed contracts become final purchases 1-2 months later.

Still, declining mortgage rates over time have lifted home sales. The index is up 4.4% from a year ago.

Mortgage rates have fallen sharply in the past year, partly because the Federal Reserve has lowered its benchmark short-term interest rate. That has partially offset steady increases in average home prices across the nation.

With companies hiring at a solid pace and wages rising modestly, Americans’ finances are generally improving and enabling more people to buy. Sales of existing homes have increased 4.6% in the past year. New home sale have soared by almost a third in the past year.

But Americans who want to buy a home have fewer choices. The number of available houses fell to 1.8 million in October, a record low for that month.

Pending home sales rose in the Northeast and fell in the South, Midwest, and West.