Pending home sales slid 7.1% in August, according to the National Association of REALTORS. All four U.S. regions posted monthly losses and year-over-year declines in transactions.

“Mortgage rates have been rising above 7% since August, which has diminished the pool of home buyers,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist in a news release. “Some would-be home buyers are taking a pause and readjusting their expectations about the location and type of home to better fit their budgets.”

Index

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI)* – a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings – sank 7.1% to 71.8 in August. Year over year, pending transactions fell by 18.7%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

“It’s clear that increased housing inventory and better interest rates are essential to revive the housing market,” added Yun.

Pending Home Sales Regional Breakdown

The Northeast PHSI declined 0.9% from last month to 62.6, a reduction of 18.2% from August 2022. The Midwest index dropped 7.0% to 71.3 in August, down 19.1% from one year ago.

The South PHSI fell 9.1% to 86.5 in August, dipping 17.6% from the prior year. The West index retreated 7.7% in August to 56.3, sinking 21.4% from August 2022.

“The Federal Reserve must consider the sharply decelerating rent growth in its consideration of future monetary policy. There is no need to raise interest rates. “Moreover, the government shutdown will disrupt some home sales in the short run due to the lack of flood insurance or delays in government-backed mortgage issuance,”  Yun added.

Methodology

*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.

Pending contracts are good early indicators of upcoming sales closings. However, the amount of time between pending contracts and completed sales is not identical for all home sales. Variations in the length of the process from pending contract to closed sale can be caused by issues such as buyer difficulties with obtaining mortgage financing, home inspection problems, or appraisal issues.

The index is based on a sample that covers about 40% of multiple listing service data each month. 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.

Source: NAR