- Associated Press - Monday, November 25, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes fell in October for the fifth straight month. Higher mortgage rates, price increases and the 16-day partial government shutdown held back sales.

The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index dipped 0.6 percent to 102.1. That’s the lowest level since December. September’s reading was revised slightly higher to 102.7.

There is generally a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed sale. The drop suggests that final sales will remain weak in the coming months.

The Realtors group said the shutdown prevented the Internal Revenue Service from verifying incomes, a critical part of the mortgage-approval process. The group said that 17 percent of Realtors reported delays.