Washington, DC, December 02, 2010
Pending home sales jumped in October, showing a positive uptrend since bottoming in June, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.
The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator, rose 10.4 percent to 89.3 based on contracts signed in October from 80.9 in September. The index remains 20.5 percent below a surge to a cyclical peak of 112.4 in October 2009, which was the highest level since May 2006 when it hit 112.6.
Last October, first-time buyers were motivated to make offers before the initial contract deadline for the tax credit last November. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said excellent housing affordability conditions are drawing home buyers. “It is welcoming to see a solid double-digit percentage gain, but activity needs to improve further to reach healthy, sustainable levels. The housing market clearly is in a recovery phase and will be uneven at times, but the improving job market and consequential boost to household formation will help the recovery process going into 2011,” he said.
“More importantly, a return to more normal loan underwriting standards and removal of unnecessary underwriting fees for very low risk borrowers is needed and could quickly help in the housing and economic recovery,” Yun said. Recent loan performance data from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac clearly demonstrates very low default rates on recently originated mortgages, much lower that the vintages of 2002 and 2003 before the housing boom.
The PHSI in the Northeast jumped 19.6 percent to 71.3 in October but is 27.3 percent below the tax credit peak in October 2009. In the Midwest the index surged 27.3 percent in October to 81.7 but is 24.8 percent below a year ago. Pending home sales in the South rose 7.1 percent to an index of 93.8 but are 18.4 percent below October 2009. In the West the index slipped 0.4 percent to 104.3 and is 15.6 percent below a year ago.
Near term, Yun expects home sales will continue to climb from their cyclical low this past summer. “Even so, we now have some consumer concerns regarding the mortgage interest deduction, an important component in housing affordability,” he said. “Preliminary results of a new survey show nearly three out of four home owners and two out of three renters consider the mortgage interest deduction to be extremely or very important to them. Home owners already pay between 80 and 90 percent of all federal income taxes and additional tax burden would hurt them and the economic recovery, so we have a reasonable hope that it will not be changed.”
The National Association of REALTORS®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 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 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. There is a closer relationship between annual index changes (from the same month a year earlier) and year-ago changes in sales performance than with month-to-month comparisons.
An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales.
NOTE: The next Pending Home Sales Index will be released December 30 with release dates being moved up for 2011, and existing-home sales for November will be reported December 22; release times are 10:00 a.m. EST.