Pending Home Sales See 0.7 Percent Drop in November

WASHINGTON (December 28, 2018) – Pending home sales overall slipped in November, but saw minor increases in the Northeast and the West, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* www.nar.realtor/pending-home-sales, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, decreased 0.7 percent to 101.4 in November, down from 102.1 in October. However, year-over-year contract signings dropped 7.7 percent, making this the eleventh straight month of annual decreases.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the current sales numbers don’t fully take into account other data. “The latest decline in contract signings implies more short-term pullback in the housing sector and does not yet capture the impact of recent favorable conditions of mortgage rates,” he said.

Yun added that while pending contracts have reached their lowest mark since 2014, there is no reason to be overly concerned, and he predicts solid growth potential for the long-term.

All four major regions sustained a drop when compared to one year ago, with the West taking the brunt of the decrease. “The West crawled back lightly, but is still experiencing the biggest annual decline among the regions because of unaffordable conditions,” Yun said.

Yun suggests that affordability challenges in the West are part of the blame for the drop in sales. Home prices in the West region have risen too much, too fast, according to Yun. “Land cost is expensive, and zoning regulations are too stringent. Therefore, local officials should consider ways to boost local supply; if not, they risk seeing population migrating to neighboring states and away from the West Coast.”

Yun indicated the latest government shutdown will harm the housing market. “Unlike past government shutdowns, with this present closure, flood insurance is not available. That means that roughly 40,000 homes per month may go unsold because purchasing a home requires flood insurance in those affected areas,” Yun said. “The longer the shutdown means fewer homes sold and slower economic growth.”

That said, Yun cited year-over-year increases in active listings from data at realtor.com® to illustrate a potential rise in inventory. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo., Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif., and Providence-Warwick, Rhode Island saw the largest increase in active listings in November compared to a year ago.

Yun believes that there are good longer-term prospects for home sales. “Home sales in 2018 look to close out the year with 5.3 million home sales, which would be similar to that experienced in the year 2000. But given the 17 million more jobs now compared to the turn of the century, the home sales are clearly underperforming today. That also means there is steady longer-term growth potential.”

November Pending Home Sales Regional Breakdown

The PHSI in the Northeast rose 2.7 percent to 95.1 in November, and is now 3.5 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest, the index fell 2.3 percent to 98.1 in November and is 7.0 percent lower than November 2017.

Pending home sales in the South fell 2.7 percent to an index of 115.7 in November, which is 7.4 percent lower than a year ago. The index in the West increased 2.8 percent in November to 87.2 and fell 12.2 percent below a year ago.

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.3 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 November Housing Minute video will be released on December 31, Existing-Home Sales for December will be reported January 22, and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be January 30; all release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.

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