The NAR pending home sales index increased 8.2% in February and is 17.3% higher than February 2009, in a development likely due to buying momentum in the run-up to the end of the homebuyer tax credit, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). April is the final month of eligibility for the tax credit. Contracts to buy must be signed by the end of this month, and closing finalized by the end of June. The pending home sales index is a measure of contracts signed in February, a forward-looking projection of home sales in the next one to two months. The report last month showed January pending sales falling 7.6% from December. “The rise in buyer contact activity may signal the early stages of a second surge of home sales this spring. The healthy gain hints home prices are continuing to flatten,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “We need a second surge to meaningfully draw down inventory and definitively stabilize home values.” Regionally, pending sales in the Midwest increased 21.8% from January, and 18.7% from February 2009. In the South, pending sales were up 9.2% on the month, and 17.5% from a year earlier. In the Northeast, pending sales were up 9% from last month, and 18.9% from a year ago. The West was the only region to decline, down 4.8% from last month, but rose 14.6% from last year. “Anecdotally, we’re hearing about a rise of activity in recent weeks with ongoing reports of multiple offers in more markets, so the March data could demonstrate additional improvement from buyers responding to the tax credit,” Yun said. Write to Austin Kilgore.