After five consecutive months of increases, pending home sales slipped in June but remained near May’s level, which was the highest in over nine years, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Modest gains in the Northeast and West were offset by larger declines in the Midwest and South.
The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, fell 1.8 percent to 110.3 in June but is still 8.2 percent above June 2014 (101.9). Despite last month’s decline, the index is the third highest reading of 2015 and has now increased year-over-year for 10 consecutive months.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says although pending sales decreased in June, the overall trend in recent months supports a solid pace of home sales this summer. “Competition for existing houses on the market remained stiff last month, as low inventories in many markets reduced choices and pushed prices above some buyers’ comfort level,” he says. “The demand is there for more sales, but the determining factor will be whether or not some of these buyers decide to hold off even longer until supply improves and price growth slows.”
According to Yun, existing-home sales are up considerably compared to a year ago despite the share of first-time buyers only modestly improving. The reason is that the boost in sales is mostly coming from pent-up sellers realizing their equity gains from recent years.
“Strong price appreciation and an improving economy is finally giving some homeowners the incentive and financial capability to sell and trade up or down,” adds Yun. “Unfortunately, because nearly all of these sellers are likely buying another home, there isn’t a net increase in inventory. A combination of homebuilders ramping up construction and even more homeowners listing their properties on the market is needed to tame price growth and give all buyers more options.”
“This is a tricky time of year to assess housing trends as the housing market is very seasonal,” says realtor.com Chief Economist, Jonathan Smoke. “The seasonal trend varies by market so a general interpretation of these numbers should be treated with skepticism.”
The PHSI in the Northeast inched 0.4 percent to 94.3 in June, and is now 12.0 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest the index declined 3.0 percent to 108.1 in June, but is still 5.0 percent above June 2014.
Pending home sales in the South also decreased 3.0 percent to an index of 123.5 in June but are still 7.8 percent above last June. The index in the West increased 0.5 percent in June to 104.4, and is now 10.4 percent above a year ago.
“Regardless of what reading you prefer, the level of sales remains high. You have to go back to 2006 to see better readings on both indices,” says Smoke.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types in 2015 is expected to increase around 6.5 percent to $221,900, which would match the record high set in 2006. Total existing-home sales this year are forecast to increase 6.6 percent to around 5.27 million, about 25 percent below the prior peak set in 2005 (7.08 million).
For more information, visit www.realtor.org.