With mortgage rates falling and price increases slowing, prospective home buyers are seeing more favorable conditions than they did earlier in the year. The trend has led to increasing optimism about the housing market’s future and also improving sales numbers. In fact, the National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index – which measures the number of contract signings each month – rose above year-before levels for the first time in 11 months, according to the most recent release. The index is now at its second-highest level in a year. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said the number of homes available for sale is on the rise and it’s preventing home prices from increasing as quickly as they were earlier this year. That means, affordability conditions should continue to improve as long inventory sustains its gains and mortgage rates stay low. Despite the overall improvement, however, regional results varied, with the Northeast and South showing increases while the West and Midwest decreased slightly. Pending-home sales are a good indicator of future sales of previously owned homes. More here.