The National Association of Realtors (NAR) Thursday morning released its data on pending sales of existing homes in February. The pending home sales index fell 0.8% from a downwardly revised index reading of 94.7 in January to the February reading of 93.9. That is 10.5% lower than in February 2013, when the index reading was 104.9. The consensus estimate called for a month-over-month decrease of 0.8% in pending 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 come to 5 million, below the 2013 total of 5.1 million. National median home prices are forecast to rise by about 5.5% to 6.0% this year, but existing home inventory levels need to increase to help keep prices in check. The median price forecast is slightly higher than last month’s forecast. Home prices rose 11.5% in 2013.
The NAR’s chief economist noted:
Contract signings for the past three months have been little changed, implying the market appears to be stabilizing. Moreover, buyer traffic information from our monthly Realtor® survey shows a modest turnaround, and some weather delayed transactions should close in the spring.
Pending home sales in the northeastern United States declined 2.4% in January, posting an index reading of 77.1, down 7.4% from February 2013. The index rose 2.8% in the Midwest but remains 8.5% below last year’s reading. Sales fell 4% in the South and rose by 2.3% in the West. Compared with February 2013, all regions are down.
Pending home sales do not have the economic impact of new home sales, which employ thousands of people in building and furnishing new homes. But it does give some indication of the market for housing.