Pending home sales improved by 2.4% in June, rising to a reading of 90.9 on the National Association of Realtor's Pending Home Sales Index. On an annual basis, the index gained 19.8%.

The index, which tracks contracts signed rather than closings, points to where home sales numbers are heading, with a typical lag time of one to two months. And if June’s numbers prove an accurate prognosticator, sales will be up in coming months but not everywhere.

While the South and West gained in June, rising 4.4% and 6.4%, respectively, the Northeast and Midwest declined, slipping 0.4% and 3.7%, respectively. Those numbers point "to a small and uneven increase in July’s existing-home sales," with growth concentrated in the South and West, says Chris Christopher, senior principal economist at IHS Global Insight.

On an annual basis, the numbers appeared brighter with all regions posting double-digit increases over June 2010. However, Christopher is still hesitant to start celebrating.

"The labor market is not looking too good," he said on a call with Builder today. "Unemployment is at around 9.2%. And July isn’t looking great in terms of where payroll numbers will end up."

He ascribed much of the monthly improvement to the annual ebb and flow of seasonal factors. "If you adjust for seasonality," he said, "things are just puttering around the bottom."

Claire Easley is a senior editor at Builder.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Greenville, SC.