Things in the real estate arena may be looking brighter.
Pending home sales increased in December for the first time since May 2022 — following six consecutive months of declines — according to the National Association of Realtors. The Northeast and Midwest recorded month-over-month reductions, while the South and West posted monthly gains. All four U.S. regions saw year-over-year decreases in transactions, with the West experiencing the largest decline at 37.5%, according to a news release.
The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI)* — a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings — improved by 2.5% to 76.9 in December. Year-over-year, pending transactions dropped by 33.8%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.
“This recent low point in home sales activity is likely over,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in the news release. “Mortgage rates are the dominant factor driving home sales, and recent declines in rates are helping to stabilize the market.”
Pending Home Sales Regional Breakdown
The Northeast PHSI dropped 6.5% from last month to 64.7, a decrease of 32.5% from December 2021. The Midwest index shrank 0.3% to 77.6 in December, a decline of 30.1% from one year ago.
The South PHSI rose 6.1% to 94.1 in December, dropping 34.5% from the prior year. The West index advanced 6.4% in December to 58.6, decreasing 37.5% from December 2021.
“The new normal for mortgage rates will likely be in the 5.5% to 6.5% range,” Yun added in the news release. “Job gains will steadily become important in driving local home-sales markets. The South, in particular, is set to outperform the rest of the country, thanks primarily to better job market conditions in this part of the country compared to other regions.”
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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 deal usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.
Pending contracts are good early indicators of upcoming sales closings. However, the time between pending contracts and completed sales is not identical for all home sales. Variations in the process length 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.