Pending Home Sales Decline in December, Remain Above a Year Ago

After reaching a 19-month high, pending home sales eased in December but stayed above year-ago levels, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, declined 3.5 percent to 96.6 in December from 100.1 in November but is 5.6 percent above December 2010 when it was 91.5. The data reflects contracts but not closings.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the trend line remains positive. “Even with a modest decline, the preceding two months of contract activity are the highest in the past four years outside of the homebuyer tax credit period,” he said. “Contract failures remain an issue, reported by one-third of REALTORS® over the past few months, but home buyers are not giving up.”

Yun said some buyers successfully complete the sale after a contract delay, while others stay in the market after a contract failure and make another offer. “Housing affordability conditions are too good to pass up,” he said. “Our hope is lending conditions will gradually improve with sustained increases in closed existing-home sales.”

The PHSI in the Northeast declined 3.1 percent to 74.7 in December and is 0.8 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index rose 4.0 percent to 95.3 and is 13.3 percent higher than December 2010. Pending home sales in the South slipped 2.6 percent to an index of 101.1 in December but are 4.9 percent above a year ago. In the West the index fell 11.0 percent in December to 107.9 but is 3.7 percent higher than December 2010.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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Pending Home Sales Decline in January

Pending home sales eased moderately for the second straight month in January, but remain 20.6 percent above the cyclical low last June, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator, declined 2.8 percent to 88.9 based on contracts signed in January from a downwardly revised 91.5 in December. The index is 1.5 percent below the 90.3 level in January 2010 when a tax credit stimulus was in place. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, points to the broader trend. “The housing market is healing with sales fluctuating at times, depending on the flow of distressed properties coming on the market,” he said.

“While home buyers over the past two years have been exceptionally successful with historically low default rates, there is still an elevated level of shadow inventory of distressed homes from past lending mistakes that need to go through the system,” Yun said. “We should not expect the recovery to be in a straight upward path — it will zig-zag at times.”

The pace of January existing-home sales, 5.36 million, is slightly higher than NAR’s annual forecast for 2011. If contract activity stays on its present course, there should be an 8 percent increase in total existing-home sales this year.

“The broad fundamentals for a housing recovery are developing,” Yun said. “Job growth, high housing affordability and rising apartment rent are conducive to bringing more buyers into the market. Some buyers may be looking to real estate as a hedge against potential future inflation.”

The PHSI in the Northeast declined 2.4 percent to 73.5 in January and is 3.0 percent below January 2010. In the Midwest the index fell 7.3 percent in January to 78.0 and is 3.2 percent below a year ago. Pending home sales in the South rose 1.4 percent to an index of 97.7 but are 0.4 percent below January 2010. In the West the index fell 5.2 percent to 98.7 and is 0.9 percent below a year ago.

— NAR

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September Pending Home Sales Slip 1.8%

Pending home sales retreated after two monthly gains, signaling an uneven recovery entering 2011 with some near-term disruptions from the foreclosure moratorium, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator, slipped 1.8 percent to 80.9 based on contracts signed in September from an upwardly revised 82.4 in August. However, the index remains 24.9 percent below a surge to 107.8 in September 2009 when first-time buyers were jumping into the market to take advantage of the initial deadline for the tax credit last November.

The data reflects contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.

“Existing-home sales have shown some improvement but the foreclosure moratorium is likely to cause some disruption and contribute to an uneven sales performance in the months ahead,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Nonetheless, there appears to be a pent-up demand that eventually will be unleashed as banks resolve their issues with foreclosures and the labor market improves. However, tight credit and appraisals coming in below a negotiated price continue to constrain the market.”

The PHSI in the Northeast slipped 1.7 percent to 59.6 in September and is 28.3 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index fell 5.7 percent in September to 64.2 and remains 33.0 percent below September 2009.  Pending home sales in the South declined 3.5 percent to an index of 87.6 and are 19.1 percent below a year ago.  In the West the index rose 3.5 percent to 104.6 but is 24.7 percent below September 2009.

Yun expects the Gross Domestic Product to grow 2.0 to 2.5 percent over the next two years.  With a projection of 1.5 million additional jobs over the next two years, the unemployment rate should decline to 8 percent by 2013 and return to a normal level of around 6 percent in 2015.

“Mortgage interest rates currently are bouncing along the bottom, but are expected to gradually rise and average 4.9 percent next year, then rise to 5.8 percent in 2012,” Yun said.

Existing-home sales are forecast to gradually rise, with some occasional dips along the way.  “For 2011 we should see more than 5.1 million existing-home sales, up from about 4.8 million this year.  Housing starts are expected to rise to 716,000 in 2011 from 598,000 this year,” Yun said.  “We’ve added 30 million people to the U.S. population over the past 10 years, but sales are where they were in 2000, so there appears to be a sizable pent-up demand that could come to the market once the economy gathers momentum.”

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Surge in Pending Home Sales Continues

Pending home sales have risen for three consecutive months, reflecting the broad impact of the home buyer tax credit and favorable housing affordability conditions, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator, rose 6.0 percent to 110.9 based on contracts signed in April, from an upwardly revised 104.6 in March, and is 22.4 percent higher than April 2009 when it was 90.6. That follows gains of 7.1 percent in March and 8.3 percent in February.

Pending home sales are at the highest level since last October when the index reached 112.4 and first-time buyers were rushing to beat the initial deadline for the tax credit. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which usually occur with a lag time of one or two months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said this second round of surging sales from the tax credit extension looks as strong as the original tax credit. “There were concerns that only a small pool of buyers were left to take advantage of the tax credit extension. But evidently the tax stimulus, combined with improved consumer confidence and low mortgage interest rates, are contributing to surging sales,” he said. “The housing market has to get back on its own feet and now appears to be in a good position to return to sustainable levels even without government stimulus, provided the economy continues to add jobs.”

NAR expects a net of 1 million additional jobs in the second half of this year and about 2 million in 2011.

“The home buyer tax credit brought close to 1 million additional buyers into the market, which is now helping the trade-up market and has significantly improved the inventory situation. This stabilized home prices more quickly and has preserved about $900 billion in home equity; in turn, that is keeping additional households from going underwater and risking foreclosure,” Yun said.

Pending Home Sales Index by region:

* Northeast: jumped 29.5 percent to 97.9 in April and is 24.5 percent above a year ago.
* Midwest: rose 4.1 percent to 104.2 and is 17.9 percent above April 2009.
* South: slipped 0.6 percent to an index of 123.9, but is 31.3 percent higher than a year ago.
* West: increased 7.5 percent to 107.9 and is 12.0 percent higher than April 2009.

“A big concern surfacing recently is insufficient time to close the deal at the settlement table. Under normal circumstances, two months would be enough time from contract signing to settlement date,” Yun said. “However, the recent housing cycle has brought long delays related to the short sales approval process by banks, and from ongoing appraisal issues.”

He added that there could be a sizable number of home buyers who responded to tax credit incentives, but may encounter problems meeting the settlement deadline by June 30. Because of these market challenges, NAR has asked Congress to provide flexibility on the deadline for closing.

Source: NAR

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Pending Home Sales on an Upswing

Pending home sales increased again in March, affirming that a surge of home sales is unfolding for the spring home buying season, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in March, rose 5.3 percent to 102.9 from 97.7 in February, and is 21.1 percent above March 2009 when it was 85.0; this follows an 8.3 percent increase in February. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which usually occur with a lag time of one or two months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said favorable affordability conditions have been working with the tax credit. “Clearly the home buyer tax credit has helped stabilize the market. In the months immediately following the expiration of the tax credit, we expect measurably lower sales,” he said. “Later in the second half of the year, and into 2011, home sales will likely become self-sustaining if the economy can add jobs at a respectable pace, and from a return of buyer demand as they see home values stabilizing.”

Regional Numbers

* The PHSI in the Northeast declined 3.3 percent to 75.1 in March, but remains 27.2 percent higher than March 2009.
* In the Midwest the index increased 1.2 percent to 98.9 and is 18.5 percent above a year ago.
* Pending home sales in the South jumped 12.7 percent to an index of 121.2, which is 28.3 percent higher than March 2009.
* In the West the index rose 1.9 percent to 99.9 and is 8.8 percent above a year ago.

“Another encouraging sign is the improvement in the availability for jumbo and second-home mortgages,” Yun said. “As bank balance sheets strengthen, it is just a matter of time before lending of non-government-backed mortgages steadily opens up.”

Source: NAR

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Pending Home Sales Show Healthy Gain

Pending home sales rose in February, potentially signaling a second surge of home sales in response to the home buyer tax credit, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in February, rose 8.2 percent to 97.6 from a downwardly revised 90.2 in January, and remains 17.3 percent above February 2009 when it was 83.2. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which usually occur with a lag time of one or two months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the improvement is another hopeful sign. “The rise in buyer contact activity may signal the early stages of a second surge of home sales this spring. The healthy gain hints home prices are continuing to flatten,” he says. “We need a second surge to meaningfully draw down inventory and definitively stabilize home values.”

Pending home sales by region:

* Northeast: the index rose 9.0 percent to 77.7 in February and is 18.9 percent higher than February 2009.

* Midwest: jumped 21.8 percent to 97.9 and is 18.7 percent above a year ago.

* South: increased 9.2 percent to an index of 107.0, and the index is 17.5 percent higher than February 2009.

* West: the index fell 4.8 percent to 98.0 but is 14.6 percent above a year ago.

Source: NAR

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Pending Home Sales Down

Pending home sales are down and additional declines are expected from abnormal weather conditions, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in January, fell 7.6 percent to 90.4 from an upwardly revised 97.8 in December, but remains 12.3 percent higher than January 2009, when it was 80.5.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said weather is likely to impact housing data. “January pending sales, though still higher than one year ago, remain much lower than expected given that a large number of potential buyers are eligible for the expanded home buyer tax credit. Moreover, the abnormally severe and prolonged winter weather, which affected large regions of the U.S., hampered shopping activity in February,” he said.

As such, abnormal swings are expected in housing data. “We will see weak near-term sales followed by a likely surge of existing-home sales in April, May, and June,” Yun said. “The real question is what happens in the second half of the year. If there is sufficient job creation, housing can become self-sustaining with stable to modestly rising home prices because inventory has been trending downward.”

Here’s a look at pending home sales numbers by region:

• Northeast: Pending home sales fell 8.7 percent to 71.3 in January, but are 20.5 percent higher than January 2009.
• Midwest: The index dropped 8.9 percent to 81.2 but is 11.8 percent above a year ago.
• South: Pending home sales slipped 2.1 percent to an index of 98.1, but the index is 18.0 percent higher than January 2009.
• West: The index dropped 13.2 percent to 102.9 but is 1.4 percent above a year ago.

— NAR

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Pending Home Sales Stabilize

Pending home sales have leveled from a market swing driven by response to the home buyer tax credit, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in December, increased 1 percent to 96.6 from 95.6 in November, and remains 10.9 percent above December 2008 when it was 87.1.

In November, the monthly index had fallen by 16.4 percent from surging activity in preceding months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says it’s important to recognize how the tax credit is skewing market data.

“There are easily understood swings in contract activity as buyers respond to a tax credit that was expiring and was then extended and expanded,” he says. “These swings are masking the underlying trend, which is a broad improvement over year-ago levels.”

December activity was the fifth highest monthly tally in two years.

The Tax Credit Impact

Buyers who have a contract in place to purchase a primary residence by April 30, 2010, have until June 30, 2010, to finalize the transaction to qualify for a tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers.

Yun projects the extended and expanded tax credit will encourage 2.4 million households to take the credit in 2010.

“While new-home sales will remain low due to a lack of construction, existing-home sales are projected to rise to around 5.6 million in 2010,” Yun says. Last year there were 5.16 million existing-home sales.

He added that one of the greatest benefits of rising sales will be firming home prices.

“For several months now we’ve been seeing stabilization in all of the home price measures as inventory is pulled down,” Yun says. “As a result, the housing wealth for many middle class families has begun to stabilize.”

Regional Data

Here’s a breakdown by region for the PHSI:

* Northeast: rose 2.3 percent to 76.1 in December and is 14.9 percent higher than December 2008.
* Midwest: increased 5.2 percent to 86.9 and is 8.7 percent above a year ago.
* South: rose 2.2 percent to an index of 98.4, and are 5.5 percent higher than December 2008.
* West: fell 3.8 percent to 119.9 but is 18.6 percent above a year ago.

—NAR

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Pending Home Sales Down from Surge

Contract activity for pending home sales fell after a surge of activity in preceding months to beat the original deadline for the first-time home buyer tax credit. However, it remains comfortably above the level from a year ago, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in November, fell 16 percent to 96.0 from an upwardly revised 114.3 in October, but is 15.5 percent higher than November 2008 when it was 83.1.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said a drop was expected. “It will be at least early spring before we see notable gains in sales activity as home buyers respond to the recently extended and expanded tax credit,” he said. “The fact that pending home sales are comfortably above year-ago levels shows the market has gained sufficient momentum on its own. We expect another surge in the spring as more home buyers take advantage of affordable housing conditions before the tax credit expires.”

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Pending Home Sales Down from Surge

Contract activity for pending home sales fell after a surge of activity in preceding months to beat the original deadline for the first-time home buyer tax credit. However, it remains comfortably above the level from a year ago, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in November, fell 16 percent to 96.0 from an upwardly revised 114.3 in October, but is 15.5 percent higher than November 2008 when it was 83.1.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said a drop was expected. “It will be at least early spring before we see notable gains in sales activity as home buyers respond to the recently extended and expanded tax credit,” he said. “The fact that pending home sales are comfortably above year-ago levels shows the market has gained sufficient momentum on its own. We expect another surge in the spring as more home buyers take advantage of affordable housing conditions before the tax credit expires.”

Buyers who have a contract in place to purchase a primary residence by April 30 have until June 30 to finalize the transaction to qualify for the tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers.

By Region

* The PHSI in the Northeast dropped 25.7 percent to 74.4 in November but is 14.7 percent above a year ago.
* In the Midwest the index fell 25.7 percent to 82.0 but is 9.2 percent higher than November 2008.
* Pending home sales in the South fell 15.0 percent to 97.8, but are 14.7 percent higher than a year ago.
* In the West the index declined 2.7 percent to 124.6 but is 21.4 percent above November 2008.

Interest Rates Likely to Go Higher
Yun projects an additional 900,000 first-time buyers will qualify for the extended tax credit, in addition to about 2 million who have already purchased; 1.5 million repeat buyers also are expected to benefit from the credit.

“Many trade-up buyers, who have historically timed their purchase based on school-year considerations, will have to accelerate their buying plans if they need the tax credit to make a trade,” Yun said. Repeat buyers do not have to sell their existing home to qualify for the credit, but they must occupy the home they buy as their primary residence.

Yun added that mortgage interest rates cannot remain at rock-bottom levels for a sustained period and will likely inch higher in 2010. But the tax credit impact in the first half of the year and expected job-growth impact in the second half will support home buying activity and absorb enough inventory to bring a rough balance between buyers and sellers. Home prices are expected to stabilize or even modestly rise as a result in 2010.

Source: NAR

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