Pending home sales rebounded in July and have now risen in four of the last five months, according to the National Association of Realtors. All major regions experienced healthy gains except for the Midwest, which saw a slight decline.
The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, climbed 3.3 percent to 105.9 in July from 102.5 in June, but is still 2.1 percent below July 2013 (108.2). The index is at its highest level since August 2013 (107.1) and is above 100 - considered an average level of contract activity - for the third consecutive month.
The Pending Home Sales (PHS) index measures housing contract activity. It is based on signed real estate contracts for existing single-family homes, condos and co-ops.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says favorable housing conditions are behind July's higher contract activity. "Interest rates are lower than they were a year ago, price growth continues to moderate and total housing inventory is at its highest level since August 20121," he said. "The increase in the number of new and existing homes for sale is creating less competition and is giving prospective buyers more time to review their options before submitting an offer."
Yun adds, "More importantly, steady job additions to the economy are helping family finances and giving them added confidence to enter the market."
The PHSI in the Northeast jumped 6.2 percent to 89.2 in July, and is 8.3 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index marginally fell 0.4 percent to 104.6 in July, and is 6.4 percent below July 2013.
Pending home sales in the South increased 4.2 percent to an index of 119.0 in July, and is now 1.0 percent below a year ago. The index in the West rose 4.0 percent in July to 99.5, but remains 6.0 percent below July 2013.
Yun expects existing-homes sales to be down 2.1 percent this year to 4.98 million, compared to 5.09 million sales of existing homes in 2013. The national median existing-home price is projected to grow between five and six percent this year and four and five percent next year.
Total housing inventory in July 2014 was 2.37 million existing-homes available for sale, the highest since August 2012 (2.40 million).
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.
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