Fewer buyers signed contracts to buy an existing home in May, according to the National Association of Realtors, which released its Pending Home Sales Index today. The indicator dipped 4.2 points to a reading of 84.7. That represents a 13.8 point drop from May 2007.

"The overall decline in contract signings suggests we are not out of the woods by any means," said Lawrence Yun, the association's chief economist. "The housing stimulus bill that is still being considered in the Senate is critical to assure a healthy recovery in the housing market, jobs, and the economy."

The Senate is working on the housing rescue bill this week.

For more information on the pending home sales index, visit http://www.realtor.org/press_room/news_releases/2008/home_sales_vary_then_rise.

Alison Rice is senior editor, online, for BUILDER magazine.