Pending Home Sales Flat in September, Remain at Near 3-Year Low

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The National Association of Realtors (NAR) Wednesday morning released its data on pending sales of existing homes for September. The pending home sales index was unchanged from a downwardly revised August reading of 106.0. The index is now at its lowest reading since January 2015 (104.7, or 3.5% below a year ago) and has fallen on an annual basis in five of the past six months.

September sales rose in three of four NAR geographical regions.

The consensus estimate called for a month-over-month increase of 0.5% 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 36 straight months.

The NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, noted:

Demand exceeds supply in most markets, which is keeping price growth high and essentially eliminating any savings buyers would realize from the decline in mortgage rates from earlier this year. While most of the country, except for the South, did see minor gains in contract signings last month, activity is falling further behind last year’s pace because new listings aren’t keeping up with what’s being sold.

Yun continued:

Hurricane Irma’s direct hit on Florida weighed on activity in the South, but similar to how Houston has rebounded after Hurricane Harvey, Florida’s strong job and population growth should guide sales back to their pre-storm pace fairly quickly. … Buyers looking for a little relief from the stiff competition from over the summer may unfortunately be out of luck in the coming months. Inventory starts to decline heading into the winter, and many would-be buyers from earlier in the year are still on the hunt to find a home.

By region, September pending home sales increased by 1.2% to an index score of 94.5 in the Northeast, and down 2.4% compared with September 2016. In the South, sales fell 2.3% to an index score of 115.9, which is 5% below last year’s index.

Sales rose by 1.9% in the West to an index score of 102.7 and remain down 2.9% year over year for the month. Midwest sales increased by 1.4% to 102.9 in September and are now 2.5% below the year-ago total.