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Pending Home Sales Lessen 0.8 Percent in July

Media Contact: Adam DeSanctis / 202-383-1178 / Email

WASHINGTON (August 31, 2017) – Pending homes sales stumbled in July for the fourth time in five months as only the West saw an increase in contract activity, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* www.nar.realtor/topics/pending-home-sales, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, decreased 0.8 percent to 109.1 in July from a downwardly revised 110.0 in June. After last month’s decline, the index is now 1.3 percent below a year ago and has fallen on an annual basis in three of the past four months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the staggering inventory woes throughout the country continue to stall contract activity. “With the exception of a minimal gain in the West, pending sales were weaker in most areas in July as house hunters saw limited options for sale and highly competitive market conditions,” he said. “The housing market remains stuck in a holding pattern with little signs of breaking through. The pace of new listings is not catching up with what’s being sold at an astonishingly fast pace.”

According to Yun, in the past five years, the national median sales price has risen 38 percent, while hourly earnings have increased less than a third of that (12 percent). This unsustainable trend is putting considerable pressure on affordability in some markets – especially for prospective first-time buyers – and is pricing out some households who would otherwise be looking to buy a home. Despite this growing obstacle, Yun says data and feedback from Realtors® continues to confirm that the slowdown in existing sales since spring is the result of a supply problem and not one of diminished demand.

 “Buyer traffic continues to be higher than a year ago, the typical listing has gone under contract within a month since April, and inventory at the end of July was 9.0 percent lower than last July,” said Yun. “The reality, therefore, is that sales in coming months will not break out unless supply miraculously improves. This seems unlikely given the inadequate pace of housing starts in recent months and the lack of interest from real estate investors looking to sell.”  

With autumn at the doorstep, Yun expects existing-home sales to close out the year at around 5.49 million, which is only an increase of 0.7 percent from 2016 (5.45 million). The national median existing-home price this year is expected to increase around 5 percent. In 2016, existing sales increased 3.8 percent and prices rose 5.1 percent.

“The combination of weaker contract signings and the expected pause in activity in the Houston region because of Hurricane Harvey will likely slow overall sales growth in coming months,” said Yun.

The PHSI in the Northeast inched backward 0.3 percent to 97.7 in July, but is still 2.4 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index decreased 0.7 percent to 103.3 in July, and is now 2.8 percent lower than July 2016.

Pending home sales in the South declined 1.7 percent to an index of 123.1 in July and are now 0.2 percent below last July. The index in the West expanded 0.6 percent in July to 102.3, but is still 4.0 percent below a year ago.  

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 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 percent 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: NAR’s August Housing Minute will be released today at 2:00 p.m., Existing-Home Sales for August will be reported September 20, and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be September 27; all release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.