Mar 1, 2014 00:00 Contracts to buy U.S. homes barely budged in January Contracts to buy U.S. homes barely budged in January Associated Press file photo -- Baton Rouge-area home sales rose 15 percent in 2012 JOSH BOAK| AP Economics Writer March 01, 2014 Comments WASHINGTON — The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes was essentially flat in January, a possible sign of a softening real estate market. The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index inched up 0.1 last month to 95. The index has fallen 9 percent over the past 12 months as sales momentum has faded. Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases: A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a signed contract and a completed sale. Higher mortgage rates, rising prices and a tight supply of homes have restricted sales in recent months. Snowstorms across much of the country also delayed purchases. Sales of existing homes plummeted in January to the weakest pace in 18 months, the trade group said last week.