Following a sharp drop in the months immediately after expiration of the home buyer tax credit, pending home sales have modestly risen, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator, rose 5.2 percent to 79.4 based on contracts signed in July from a downwardly revised 75.5 in June, but remains 19.1 percent below July 2009 when it was 98.1. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, cautioned that there would be a long recovery process. Home sales will remain soft in the months ahead, but improved affordability conditions should help with a recovery, he said. But the recovery looks to be a long process. Home buyers over the past year got a great deal, and buyers for the balance of this year have an edge over sellers. For those who bought at or near the peak several years ago, particularly in markets experiencing big bubbles, it may take over a decade to fully recover lost equity.
Yun added, Affordability could reach a generational high in the second half of this year because of rock-bottom mortgage interest rates, helped partly by the Fed's very accommodative monetary policy. The loan underwriting standards are tighter, but home buyers can improve their chances of getting a loan by staying well within their budget.
The PHSI in the Northeast rose 6.3 percent to 62.5 in July but is 21.1 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index increased 4.1 percent to 66.7 but remains 25.7 percent below July 2009. Pending home sales in the South rose 1.2 percent to an index of 86.3, but are 15.6 percent lower than a year ago. In the West the index jumped 11.6 percent to 95.0 but is 17.6 percent below July 2009.
The national index had fallen 29.9 percent in May and another 2.8 percent in June.
The National Association of Realtors®, The Voice for Real Estate, is America's largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
*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. There is a closer relationship between annual index changes (from the same month a year earlier) and year-ago changes in sales performance than with month-to-month comparisons.
An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales.
Existing-home sales for August will be reported September 23 and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be on October 4; release times are 10 a.m. EDT.
Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org. This and other news releases are posted in the News Media section. Statistical data, tables and surveys also may be found by clicking on Research.