When a prospective home buyer signs a contract to buy a home, the closing process begins. At that point, the home sale is listed as pending. Each month, the National Association of Realtors tracks the number of contract signings because, among other things, it provides a good indicator of what future sales of existing homes might look like. In December, the Pending Home Sales Index was virtually flat, increasing just 0.1 percent. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says contract activity lost some momentum at the end of the year, though an increase in the Northeast helped stabilize December’s results. “Warmer than average weather and more favorable inventory conditions compared to other parts of the country encouraged more households in the Northeast to make the decision to buy last month,” Yun said. “Overall, while sustained job creation is spurring more activity compared to a year ago, the ability to find available homes in affordable price ranges is difficult for buyers in many job creating areas.” Despite those challenges, however, pending sales ended the year 4.2 percent above year-before levels. More here.