BY DAVID M. KINCHEN
The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 3.4 percent to 97.4 from an upwardly revised 94.2 in February, but is 7.9 percent below March 2013 when it was 105.7.
NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said a gain was inevitable. “After a dismal winter, more buyers got an opportunity to look at homes last month and are beginning to make contract offers,” he said. “Sales activity is expected to steadily pick up as more inventory reaches the market, and from ongoing job creation in the economy.”
The PHSI in the Northeast increased 1.4 percent to 78.8 in March, but is 5.9 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index slipped 0.8 percent to 94.5 in March, and is 10.1 percent below March 2013. Pending home sales in the South rose 5.6 percent to an index of 112.7 in March, but are 5.3 percent below a year ago. The index in the West increased 5.7 percent in March to 91.0, but is 11.1 percent below March 2013.
Although home sales are expected to trend up over the course of the year and into 2015, this year began on a weak note and total sales are unlikely to match the 2013 level.
Existing-home sales are expected to total just over 4.9 million this year, below the nearly 5.1 million in 2013. However, with ongoing inventory shortages in much of the U.S., the national median existing-home price is expected to grow between 6 and 7 percent in 2014.
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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.