January Pending Home Sales Rise, Market on Uptrend

Washington, DC, February 27, 2012

Pending home sales are on an upward trend, which has been uneven but meaningful since reaching a cyclical low last April, and are well above a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 2.0 percent to 97.0 in January from a downwardly revised 95.1 in December and is 8.0 percent higher than January 2011 when it was 89.8. The data reflects contracts but not closings.

The January index is the highest since April 2010 when it reached 111.3 as buyers were rushing to take advantage of the home buyer tax credit.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said this is a hopeful indicator going into the spring home-buying season. “Given more favorable housing market conditions, the trend in contract activity implies we are on track for a more meaningful sales gain this year. With a sustained downtrend in unsold inventory, this would bring about a broad price stabilization or even modest national price growth, of course with local variations.”

The PHSI in the Northeast rose 7.6 percent to 78.2 in January and is 9.8 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index declined 3.8 percent to 88.1 but is 10.8 percent higher than January 2011. Pending home sales in the South increased 7.7 percent to an index of 109.1 in January and are 10.5 percent above a year ago. In the West the index fell 4.4 percent in January to 101.9 but is 0.7 percent above January 2011.

“Movements in the index have been uneven, reflecting the headwinds of tight credit, but job gains, high affordability and rising rents are hopefully pushing the market into what appears to be a sustained housing recovery,” Yun said. “If and when credit availability conditions return to normal, home sales will likely get a 15 percent boost, speed up the home-price recovery, and thereby significantly reduce the number of homeowners who are underwater.”

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.

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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 as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales; it coincides with a level that is historically healthy.

Also released today are annual data revisions. Each February, NAR Research incorporates a normal review of seasonal activity factors and fine-tunes historic data for the past three years based on the most recent findings. There are no changes to unadjusted or annual data.
The home buyer tax credit and a greater investor share in winter months likely contributed to a larger-than-normal adjustment to the seasonal factors.

NOTE: Existing-home sales for February will be reported March 21 and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be released March 26. The Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey, covering transactions in 2011, is scheduled for March 29; all release times are 10:00 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 in this release, other tables and surveys also may be found by clicking on Research.

REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark which may be used only by real estate professionals who are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribe to its strict Code of Ethics. Not all real estate agents are REALTORS®. All REALTORS® are members of NAR.

Published 27 February 12 12:54 by Denise & Larry Pierce

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