The National Association of Realtors (NAR) Monday morning released its data on pending sales of existing homes for March. The pending home sales index fell 0.9 points (down 0.8%) to 111.4 from the February reading of 112.3. The March reading is up 0.8% year over year.
March sales rose in only one of four NAR regions, the South, and the gain was relatively small.
The consensus estimate called for a month-over-month decrease of 0.5 points 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.
The index has been above 100 (the “average” reading) for 31 straight months.
The NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, noted:
Home shoppers are coming out in droves this spring and competing with each other for the meager amount of listings in the affordable price range. In most areas, the lower the price of a home for sale, the more competition there is for it. That’s the reason why first-time buyers have yet to make up a larger share of the market this year, despite there being more sales overall.
Some 42% of March sales were closed at or above the listing price, the second highest amount since the NAR began tracking this data point in 2012. Low supply levels could drive prices even higher as the selling season gets into full swing.
By region, March pending home sales decreased by 2.9% to an index score of 99.1 in the Northeast, but still up 1.8% compared with March 2016. In the South, sales rose 1.2% to an index score of 129.4, 3.9% higher than last year’s index.
Sales slipped by 2.9% in the West to an index score of 94.5, down 2.7% year over year for the month, and sales in the Midwest fell by 1.2% to a March index score of 109.67, now 2.4% lower than March 2016.