The National Association of Realtors (NAR) this morning released its data on pending sales of existing homes in March. The pending home sales index rose 1.5% from a downwardly revised 104.1 in February to 105.7, and it is 7% higher than in March 2012, when the index reading was 98.8. The consensus estimate called for an increase of 0.7% in sales. The index reflects signed contracts, not sales closings. An index reading of 100 equals the average level of contract signings during 2001.
Total existing home sales are expected to rise 6.5% to 7% year-over-year in 2013 to a total of nearly 5 million homes sold. Home prices are forecast to rise by 7.5% this year.
The NAR’s chief economist noted:
Contract activity has been in a narrow range in recent months, not from a pause in demand but because of limited supply. Little movement is expected in near-term sales closings, but they should edge up modestly as the year progresses. Job additions and rising household wealth will continue to support housing demand.
Pending home sales in the Northeast U.S. were unchanged in March, posting an index reading of 82.8, up 6.3% from March 2012. The index rose in all four NAR regions, though the West remains below last year’s index, due primarily to a lack of inventory.