Buyers pulled back on purchasing homes in November, pushing the pending home sales index down 16% on a monthly basis to a reading of 96.0, according to data released Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

The NAR produces the monthly indicator, which measures contracts signed to purchase existing homes.

The drop was not a surprise, given the status of the first-time home buyer tax credit in November. At the beginning of the month, the clock was ticking—closings needed to occur by Nov. 30, 2009, if buyers wanted to take advantage of the $8,000 credit. When Congress did finally approve the extension and expansion of the credit in early November, the government--for better or worse--took the pressure off builders and buyers. Home shoppers now have until April 30, 2010, to sign the purchase agreement and until June 30, 2010, to close on the house.

The same factors likely affected new-home sales as well in November, which dropped 11.3% compared to October 2009.

On an annual basis, though, the pending home sales index is up 15.5% compared to November 2008.

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