Data on US pending home sales in November showed on Friday that the housing sector continued to pick up pace for the third straight month. The National Association of Realtors said its index for pending sales for last month rose 1.7 percent from October to 106.4, the highest level in two and a half years. The 12-month gain was 9.8 percent, with sales picking up helped by record-low mortgage rates and slow growth in both demand and buyer confidence. Based on contract signings, the index gives a picture of the direction of actual home sales. Sales were strongest in the Northeast and West in November, while flat in the South and Midwest. The NAR said the current pace of growth implies total sales hitting around 5.1 million units nationwide in 2013, four percent higher than this year. \"Even with market frictions related to the mortgage process, home contract activity continues to improve. Home sales are recovering now based solely on fundamental demand and favourable affordability conditions,\" said NAR.