By Ruth Mantell
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — As affordability continued to attract buyers, pending home sales rose 4.5% in January to the highest level since April 2010, when buyers rushed to make a tax-credit deadline, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday. The pending-home-sales index increased to 105.9 in January from 101.3 in December. An index reading of 100 equals the average level of contract activity during 2001, the first year of data. January’s reading was up 9.5% from the same period in the prior year, the 21st consecutive year-over-year gain. By region, January saw pending-home-sale gains of 8.2% in the Northeast, 5.9% in the South, 4.5% in the Midwest, and 0.1% in the West. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed. Typically, sales are finalized within two months of signing. Higher pending home sales signal that actual home sales are likely to rise in coming months. January’s gain followed two months of declines.