More restrictive lending requirements dampened Americans' ability to buy a new home in April, according to the National Association of Realtors' pending home sales index.

Last month's index reading slipped just under a percentage point to 83.0, which is 20.8 percentage points lower than April 2007. (The index measures home sale contracts that have been signed, but not closed.)

"Our members are telling us that more buyers are looking at homes, but are slow in signing contracts, and that's contributing to the weakness in pending home sales," said Richard F. Gaylord, the association's president and a RE/MAX broker in Long Beach, Calif.

When these buyers do decide to purchase, they encounter a mortgage market with far fewer options and many more rules than they might have during the boom. "Things are beginning to improve, but the availability of affordable mortgages is uneven around the country and sometimes within metropolitan areas," said Lawrence Yun, the association's chief economist.

For more information, including regional pending home sales indices, visit

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

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.