January 4th, 2016 4:13 PM by Eileen Denhard
WASHINGTON (December 30, 2015) — Pending home sales in November slightly declined for the third time in four months as buyers continue to battle both rising home prices and limited homes available for sale, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Modest gains in the Midwest and South were offset by larger declines in the Northeast and West.
The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, decreased 0.9 percent to 106.9 in November from an upwardly revised 107.9 in October but is still 2.7 percent above November 2014 (104.1). Although the index has increased year-over-year for 15 consecutive months, last month's annual gain was the smallest since October 2014 (2.6 percent).
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says November's dip in contract activity continues the modestly slowing trend seen ever since pending sales peaked to an over nine year high back in May1. "Home prices rising too sharply in several markets, mixed signs of an economy losing momentum and waning supply levels have acted as headwinds in recent months despite low mortgage rates and solid job gains," he said. "While feedback from Realtors® continues to suggest healthy levels of buyer interest, available listings that are move-in ready and in affordable price ranges remain hard to come by for many would-be buyers."
According to Yun, with existing housing inventory already below year ago levels2 and new home construction still deficient, it's likely supply constraints and faster price appreciation will reappear once the spring buying season begins.
"Especially with mortgage rates likely on the rise, affordability issues could creep up enough to temper sales growth – especially to first-time buyers in higher priced markets," adds Yun.
Existing-home sales are forecast to finish 2015 at a pace of around 5.25 million – the highest since 2006, but roughly 25 percent below the prior peak set in 2005 (7.08 million). The national median existing-home price for all of this year will be close to $220,700, up around 6.0 percent from a year ago.
On Tuesday, January 12, NAR will release a 2016 housing outlook forecast video, infographic and news release.
The PHSI in the Northeast decreased 3.0 percent to 91.8 in November, but is still 4.3 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index rose 1.0 percent to 104.9 in November, and is now 4.1 percent above November 2014.
Pending home sales in the South increased 1.3 percent to an index of 119.9 in November and are 0.5 percent higher than last November. The index in the West declined 5.5 percent in November to 100.4, but remains 4.5 percent above a year ago.
The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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1The Pending Home Sales Index in May was at 112.3, the highest since April 2006 (113.7).
2Total housing inventory at the end of November decreased 3.3 percent to 2.04 million existing homes available for sale, which is 1.9 percent lower than a year ago (2.08 million).
*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: Existing-Home Sales for December will be released January 22, and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be January 28; release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.