NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index (which tracks signed contracts, but not closings) jumped 14.4% from April 2011 to April 2012. That’s good news.

Keep in mind, of course, that 1) this is an index, so that doesn’t mean that the actual number of signings jumped that much, and B) not every signed contract goes to closing. (Although I would think that if XYZ% went to closing last year, XYZ% would go to closing this year as well.)

Based on this, NAR updated its housing forecasts for 2012 and 2013: Existing-home sales are now expected to reach 4.66 million this year (they were 4.26 million in 2011), and 4.92 million in 2013.

NAR notes that the 2013 numbers would be much higher “If lending returns to normal,” but somewhat lower if Congress enacts “higher taxes and sharp spending cuts.” (Which seems to argue that a Reaganomics scenario — lower taxes and increased spending — would be best for housing.)

Finally, NAR also believes that median existing-home prices will “rise 2 to 3 percent this year and 4 to 5 percent in 2013, with wide local market variations.” And that will, as a side benefit, reduce the number of underwater homeowners. 

Click here to read the whole NAR release.