WASHINGTON (STL.News) – Pending home sales increased in May, a positive variation from the minor sales dip seen in the previous month, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Three of the four major regions saw growth in contract activity, with the West experiencing a slight sales decline.
The Pending Home Sales Index,* www.nar.realtor/pending-home-sales, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, climbed 1.1% to 105.4 in May, up from 104.3 in April. Year-over-year contract signings declined 0.7%, marking the 17th straight month of annual decreases.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said lower-than-usual mortgage rates have led to the increase in pending sales for May. “Rates of 4% and, in some cases even lower, create extremely attractive conditions for consumers. Buyers, for good reason, are anxious to purchase and lock in at these rates.”
Yun said consumer confidence about home buying has risen, and he expects more activity in the coming months. “The Federal Reserve may cut interest rates one more time this year, but there is no guarantee mortgage rates will fall from these already historically low points,” he said. “Job creation and a rise in inventory will nonetheless drive more buyers to enter the market.”
Citing the hottest housing markets from data at realtor.com®, Yun says the year-over-year increases could be a sign of a rise in inventory. Rochester, N.Y., Fort Wayne, Ind., Lafayette-West Lafayette, Ind., Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass., and Midland, Texas, were the hottest housing markets in May.
Yun said that while contract signings and mortgage applications have increased, there is still a great need for more inventory. “Home builders have not ramped up construction to the extent that is needed,” he said. “Homes are selling swiftly, and more construction will help keep home prices manageable and thereby allow more middle-class families to attain ownership opportunities.”
May Pending Home Sales Regional Breakdown
The PHSI in the Northeast rose 3.5% to 92.0 in May and is now 0.5% below a year ago. In the Midwest, the index grew 3.6% to 100.3 in May, 1.2% lower than May 2018.
Pending home sales in the South inched up 0.1% to an index of 124.1 in May, which is 0.7% higher than last May. The index in the West dropped 1.8% in May to 91.8 and decreased 3.1% below a year ago.
The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
*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: NAR’s June Housing Minute video will be released on June 28, Existing-Home Sales for June will be reported July 23, and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be July 30; all release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.