Sales of previously owned U.S. homes probably rose in February to an almost two-year high, adding to signs of stabilization in the real-estate market, economists said before a report today.
Purchases climbed 0.9 percent to a 4.61 million annual rate, the fastest since May 2010, from a 4.57 million pace in January, according to the median forecast of 77 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. An advance would be the fourth in five months.
The industry that struggled to pick up for most of the economic expansion is stirring as job and income gains, cheaper homes and mortgage rates near the lowest on record keep affordability at an all-time high. At the same time, distressed properties and the threat of more foreclosures may limit the speed at which prices and the residential real-estate market rebound.
“Seeing sales edge up very gradually means things are turning around,” said David Semmens, a U.S. economist at Standard Chartered Bank in London. “People are seeing the homes they want becoming more affordable. But mortgage approvals are very low. It’s still not easy for people to buy homes in general.”
The National Association of Realtors’ data are due at 10 a.m. in Washington. Economists’ estimates ranged from 4.44 million to 4.8 million.
Existing-home sales, tabulated when a contract closes, climbed to 4.26 million last year from 4.19 million in 2010. Demand peaked at 7.08 million in 2005 during the housing boom. In 2008, sales totaled 4.1 million, the least since 1995.