Pending home sales rebounded in January, ticking up following a decline in December, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Only the West region reported a minor drop in month-over-month contract activity, while the other three major regions each saw pending home sales grow. Year-over-year pending home sales activity was up in all four regions and thus up nationally compared to one year ago.
The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI),* www.nar.realtor/pending-home-sales, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, grew 5.2% to 108.8 in January. Year-over-year contract signings increased 5.7%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.
“This month’s solid activity – the second-highest monthly figure in over two years – is due to the good economic backdrop and exceptionally low mortgage rates,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.
“We are still lacking in inventory,” he said, noting December’s and January’s combined supply was at the lowest level since 1999. “Inventory availability will be the key to consistent future gains.”
Pointing to data from active listings at realtor.com®, Yun says the year-over-year increases show a strong desire for homeownership. Markets drawing some of the most significant buyer attention include Fort Wayne, Ind.; San Francisco, Calif.; Sacramento, Calif.; Lafayette, Ind.; and San Jose, Calif.
“With housing starts hovering at 1.6 million in December and January, along with the favorable mortgage rates, among other factors, 2020 has so far presented a very positive sales climate,” Yun said. “Moreover, the latest stock market correction could provide exceptional, even lower mortgage rates for a few weeks, and that would help bring about a noticeable upturn in the coming months.”
January Pending Home Sales Regional Breakdown
The Northeast PHSI rose 1.3% to 92.9 in January, 1.2% higher than a year ago. In the Midwest, the index increased 7.3% to 105.3 last month, 6.5% higher than in January 2019.
Pending home sales in the South grew 8.7% to an index of 129.4 in January, a 7.1% increase from January 2019. The index in the West declined 1.1% in January 2020 to 92.6, still a jump of 5.5% from a year ago.
The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.4 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% 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. By coincidence, the volume of existing-home sales in 2001 fell within the range of 5.0 to 5.5 million, which is considered normal for the current U.S. population.
NOTE: Existing-Home Sales for February will be reported March 20. The next Pending Home Sales Index will be March 30; all release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.