Summary Box: Contracts to buy homes fell in July

CONTRACTS DOWN: The number of people who signed contracts to buy homes fell 1.3 percent in July after two straight months of increases.

CANCELLATIONS CLOUD DATA: Contract signings are usually a reliable indicator. But the Realtors group says a growing number of buyers are cancelling deals after appraisals show the homes are worth less than they bid.

SALES WEAK: Signed contracts haven't translated into increased home sales. The pace of sales for previously occupied homes is trailing last year's — the fewest since 1997. Sales of new homes are shaping up to be the worst on records dating to 1963.