The National Association of Realtors' Pending Home Sales Index registered its eighth consecutive month of growth in September, posting its biggest year-over-year increase on record as buyers rushed to get in under the deadline for expiration of the federal first-time homebuyer tax credit.

The PHSI in September rose 6.1% to 110.1 from a reading of 103.8 in August, 21.2% higher than September 2008.

"What we¹re witnessing is a rush of first-time buyers trying to beat the expiration of the tax credit at the end of this month,² said Lawrence Yun, the NAR's chief economist.

"Home values will stabilize sooner rather than over-correcting. That, in turn, will mean wealth stabilization for the vast number of middle-class families and lay the foundation for a durable economic recovery.²

Regionally, however, the gains were uneven. The PHSI in the Northeast fell 2% from August to 83.6 in September but remains 16.9% above September 2008.The Midwest index rose 8.1% to 98.2 in September, up 17.8% from a year before. The South rose 4.9% to 109.7, 22.8% ahead of September 2008. the West jumped 10.2% to 143.8, 23.7% above a year ago.

Yun warned that strong near-term reports should not be overstated. "We're clearly not out of the woods because an excess of homes remains on the market despite recent improvements," he said. "Although current inventory is getting closer to price equilibrium, foreclosures will continue to enter the pipeline."

He added, "Although the tax credit is greatly reviving the existing home market, new-home sales may continue to struggle as home builders hold back production to drive down inventory. In addition, there remains an ongoing credit crunch for construction loans."

The PHSI, based on contracts for existing homes signed during the month, is based on an index of 100 set in calendar 2001.