Pending sales of existing U.S. homes rose unexpectedly in March, a private survey showed on Monday, supporting views that the housing market decline was close to hitting bottom.

The National Association of Realtors Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in March, rose 3.2 percent to 84.6. February's pending home sales index was slightly revised down to 82.0 from 82.1.

Compared with the same period a year ago, pending home sales rose 1.1 percent.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast pending home sales flat in March.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)