A critical part of the U.S. government's plan to lift the economy out of recession may be paying off.

A survey by the National Association of Realtors Tuesday says the number of Americans signing contracts to buy previously-owned homes jumped 6.7 percent in April, the biggest monthly gain in more than seven years.

The report says pending home sales are now up more than 3 percent compared to the same time last year.

Problems in the housing sector played a key role in sparking the economic crisis, and stabilizing the housing market has been a critical part of the U.S. government's plan to help pull the country out of recession.

Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, says Americans are taking advantage of large government incentives for home buyers and low interest rates for home loans.

Yun says he expects the number of home sales to increase in the coming months as Americans race to take advantage of an $8,000 tax credit before it expires.

April is the third month in a row that pending sales of previously-owned homes have increased. 

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.