Pending home sales declined for the fourth consecutive month in September, as higher mortgage interest rates and higher home prices curbed buying power, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, fell 5.6 percent to 101.6 in September from a downwardly revised 107.6 in August, and is 1.2 percent below September 2012 when it was 102.8. The index is at the lowest level since December 2012 when it was 101.3; the data reflect contracts but not closings.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said concerns over the government shutdown also played a role. “Declining housing affordability conditions are likely responsible for the bulk of reduced contract activity,” he said. “In addition, government and contract workers were on the sidelines with growing insecurity over lawmakers’ inability to agree on a budget. A broader hit on consumer confidence from general uncertainty also curbs major expenditures such as home purchases.”
Yun notes this is the first time in 29 months that pending home sales weren’t above year-ago levels. “This tells us to expect lower home sales for the fourth quarter, with a flat trend going into 2014. Even so, ongoing inventory shortages will continue to lift home prices, though at a slower single-digit growth rate next year.”
The PHSI in the Northeast dropped 9.6 percent to 76.7 in September, and is 6.4 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index fell 8.3 percent to 102.3 in September, but is 5.7 percent higher than September 2012. Pending home sales in the South slipped 0.4 percent to an index of 116.2 in September, but are 2.0 percent above a year ago. The index in the West dropped 9.0 percent in September to 97.3, and is 9.8 percent lower than September 2012.
Total existing-home sales this year will be 10 percent higher than 2012, reaching more than 5.1 million, and are likely to hold even in 2014. The national median existing-home price is expected to rise 11 to 11.5 percent for all of 2013, but moderate to a 5 to 6 percent gain in 2014.
The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. For additional commentary and consumer information, visit www.houselogic.com and http://retradio.com.
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*The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.
The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months.
An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined. By coincidence, the volume of existing-home sales in 2001 fell within the range of 5.0 to 5.5 million, which is considered normal for the current U.S. population.
NOTE: Existing-home sales for October will be reported November 20 and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be on November 25; NAR’s report on third quarter metro area home prices will be published November 6; release times are 10:00 a.m. EST.
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