WASHINGTON (March 28, 2011) - Pending home sales increased in February but with notable regional variations, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator, rose 2.1 percent to 90.8, based on contracts signed in February, from 88.9 in January. The index is 8.2 percent below 98.9 recorded in February 2010. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says it’s important to look at the broader trend. “Month-to-month movements can be instructive, but in this uneven recovery it’s important to look at the longer term performance,” he said. “Pending home sales have trended up very nicely since bottoming out last June, even with periodic monthly declines. Contract activity is now 20 percent above the low point immediately following expiration of the home buyer tax credit.”
Yun notes there could have been some weather impact in the February data. “All of the regions saw gains except for the Northeast, where unusually bad winter weather may have curtailed some shopping and contract activity.”
The PHSI in the Northeast fell 10.9 percent to 65.5 in February and is 18.4 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index rose 4.0 percent in February to 81.1 but is 15.9 percent below February 2010. Pending home sales in the South increased 2.7 percent to an index of 100.3 but are 5.3 percent below a year ago. In the West the index rose 7.0 percent to 105.6 and is 0.6 percent higher than February 2010.
“We may not see notable gains in existing-home sales in the near term, but they’re expected to rise 5 to 10 percent this year with the economic recovery, job creation and excellent affordability conditions providing confidence to buyers who’ve been on the sidelines,” Yun said.
The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 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 as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales; it coincides with a level that is historically healthy.
Each February, NAR Research conducts a normal review of PHSI seasonal adjustment factors and fine-tunes monthly data for the past three years; revisions are posted in the Research area of nar.realtor.
NOTE: Existing-home sales for March will be reported April 20 and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be released April 28; release times are 10:00 a.m. EDT.