Pending Home Sales Rise To 22-Month High

Pending Home Sales Index 2011-2012The housing market appears headed for a strong spring season.

After a brief setback in December, the Pending Home Sales Index resumed its climb in January, posting a 2 percent gain over the month prior.

The data puts pressure on Winter Park home buyers. This is because a “pending home” is a home that’s under contract to sell, but has not yet sold. It’s tracked by the National Association of REALTORS® and, among all housing statistics, it’s the only one that’s “forward-looking”.

The Pending Home Sales Index is important to home buyers throughout FL because 80% of homes under contract to sell close within 60 days of contract. In this way, the Pending Home Sales Index forecasts the housing market 1-2 months into the future.

This is very different from how NAR’s Existing Home Sales report works; or, how the Census Bureau’s New Home Sales report works. These two metrics tell us what’s already happened in housing.

By contrast, the Pending Home Sales Index tells us what’s coming next.

January’s Pending Home Sales Index reading lifts the monthly metric to its highest level since April 2010 — the month during which the 2010 federal home buyer tax credit expired — foreshadowing a strong housing market through March and April 2012, at least.

This should not be news, of course. The nation’s home builders have said “foot traffic” is rising and home supplies are scarce nationwide. The only wild-card for housing is the high contract cancellation rate.

As compared to last January when just 9 percent of home purchase contracts “failed”, this January saw 33 percent of contracts fail. High failure rates undermine the Pending Home Sales Index’s viability as a forward-looking housing market indicator.

Despite contract failures, though, the combination of low mortgage rates and low home prices is enticing to today’s home buyers. Expect home sales to climb in the coming weeks which will lead to a strong spring season for housing. 

Existing Home Sales Climb To A 20-Month Record

Existing home supplyJanuary’s home resales moved to a 20-month high — additional evidence that the nation’s housing recovery is underway.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the January 2012 Existing Home Sales showed 4.57 million units sold last month on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis — a 4 percent increase as compared to December’s revised figures.

An “existing home” is one that’s been previously occupied and cannot be categorized as new construction.

Beyond the headline numbers, though, there was plenty about which for today’s Winter Park home sellers to get excited. Demand for homes remains strong, foreshadowing higher home prices through 2012.

First, the national housing stock is at a 5-year low.

In January, the number of homes for sale nationwide slipped to 2.31 million, the smallest home inventory since February 2007, and a 21% decrease from just one year ago.

Falling home supply amid constant home demand leads home prices higher. At the current pace of sales, today’s complete home inventory would “sell out” in 6.1 months. 

Analysts say that a 6-month supply is a market in balance. Anything less is Bull Market territory.

Second, the National Association of REALTORS® says that one-third of all homes under contract “failed” last month. This means that many more buyers tried to buy, but couldn’t for a number of reasons including mortgage denials; or, insurmountable home inspections issues; or, homes appraising for less than the contract price.

As contract failures subside, Existing Home Sales are expected to rise even faster.

And, lastly, first-time buyers continue to power the home resale market. In January, 33% of all sales were made to first-time buyers, up four points from last year. This statistic suggests that renters are moving into homeownership, an important component in a sustained housing market recovery.  

Given high demand and shrinking supply, we should expect for home prices to rise in the coming months, if they haven’t already. Thankfully, mortgage rates remain near all-time lows.

Low mortgage rates make homes more affordable.

Pending Home Sales Index Posts Second Best Month Since April 2010

Pending Home Sales 2011

After 3 consecutive months of growth, the housing market appears to have eased a bit in December.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, December’s Pending Home Sales Index slipped 4 percent from the month prior. The index measures the number of homes under contract to sell nationwide, but not yet sold.

Despite falling below its benchmark “100 value”, December’s Pending Home Sales Index is the reading’s second-highest value since April 2010 — the last month of last year’s home buyer tax credit program.

In other words, the housing market continues to show signs of improvement, propelled by low home prices and the cheapest mortgage rates of all-time.

Freddie Mac’s mortgage rate survey put the 30-year fixed rate mortgage at an average of 3.96% in December — a 75-basis point improvement from December 2010. This helps to make homes more affordable nationwide.

On a regional basis, December’s Pending Home Sales Index varied :

  • Northeast Region: -3.1 percent from November 2011
  • Midwest Region : +4.0 percent from November 2011 
  • South Region : -2.6 percent from November 2011
  • West Region : -11.0 percent from November 2011

But even regional data is only so helpful. Like everything in real estate, data must be local to be relevant.

Throughout the West Region, for example, the U.S. region in which pending home sales fell the most, several states must have performed better than the regional average. And, undoubtedly, there were cities, towns, and neighborhoods that experienced marked market growth.

Unfortunately, the Pending Home Sales Index can’t capture that data. Nor can it identify the markets in which home sales suffered.

For today’s Winter Park home buyers and sellers, therefore, it’s important to understand your local market and the drivers of local activity. Reports like the Pending Home Sales Index can paint a broad picture U.S. housing but for data that matters to you, you’ll want to look local.

For local real estate data, talk to an experienced real estate professional.

Existing Home Sales Approach Bull Market Territory

Existing Home Supply 2011The housing market finished 2011 with strength, and is carrying measurable momentum into 2012. 

According to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, December’s Existing Home Sales climbed by 120,00 units overall from the month prior on its way to an 11-month high.

An “existing home” is a home that’s been previously occupied; that cannot be considered new construction.

After 4.61 million existing homes were sold in December, there are now just 2.38 million homes for sale nationwide. The last time the national home supply was this sparse was March 2005.

At today’s sales pace, the complete, national home inventory would be exhausted in 6.2 months — the fastest pace since before the recession. A 6.0-month supply is believed to represent a market in balance. 

The December Existing Home Sales report contained noteworthy foreclosure and short sale statistics, too :

  • Foreclosures sold at an average discount of 22% to market value
  • Short sales sold at an average discount of 13% to market value
  • Together, foreclosures and short sales accounted for 32% of all home sales

Clearly, “distressed homes” remain a large part of the U.S. housing market.

Furthermore, in its report, the real estate trade group also noted that one-third of homes under contract to sell nationwide succumbed to contract failure last month. That’s up from 9% one year ago.

Contract failure occurs for a multitude of reasons, most notably homes appraising for less than the purchase price; the buyer’s failure to achieve a mortgage approval; and, insurmountable home inspection issues. December’s high failure rate underscores the importance of getting pre-approved as a buyer, and of buying homes in “good condition”.

For today’s home buyer in Orlando , December’s Existing Home Sales figures may be construed as a “buy signal”. Home supplies are dropping and buyer demand is rising. This is the basic recipe for higher home prices ahead.

If your 2012 plans call for buying a home, consider that home values throughout FL are expected to rise as the year progresses. The best values of the year may be the ones secured this winter.

More Sales, Less Inventory : Home Prices Headed Higher?

Existing Home Supply -- Oct 2011 - Oct 2011 The housing market continues to signal that a broad rebound is underway. In October, despite sparse home inventory, the number of properties sold increased 1.4% nationwide.

According to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, October Existing Home Sales gained 70,000 units as compared to September, registering 4.97 million existing homes sold overall.

An “existing home” is a home that has been previously occupied and, as compared to prior months, the stock of homes for sale is depleted. 

Just 3.3 million homes were listed for sale last month. This represents a 2 percent drop from September and marks the sparsest home resale inventory of 2011.

The current home supply would last 8.0 months at today’s sales pace — the fastest rate since January 2010. 

The real estate trade group’s report contained other noteworthy statistics, too :

  1. 34 percent of all sales were made to first-time buyers
  2. 29 percent of all sales were made with cash
  3. 28 percent of all sales were for foreclosed homes, or short sales

It also said that one-third of transactions “failed” as a result of homes not appraising for the purchase price; failure to achieve a mortgage approval; and, insurmountable home inspection issues.

This 33% failure rate is huge as compared to September 2011 (18%) and October 2010 (8%). It underscores the importance of getting pre-qualified to purchase, and of selecting a home “in good condition”.

For today’s Winter Park home buyer, October’s Existing Home Sales may be a “buy signal”. Supplies are falling and sales are increasing. Elementary economics says home prices should begin rising, if they haven’t already.

Remember : The data we’re seeing is already 30 days old. Today’s market may be markedly improved already.

The good news is that mortgage rates remain low. Freddie Mac reports that the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate is 4.000% with 0.7 discount points, making homes as affordable as they’ve been in history.

With rising home values, you may end up paying more to purchase your new home, but at least you’ll pay less to finance it.

Pending Home Sales Index Slips For 4th Straight Month

Pending Home SalesNationwide, fewer homes are going under contract to sell.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the Pending Home Sales Index fell 5 percent last month. September marks the fourth consecutive month in which the index has dropped. 

The Pending Home Sales Index is a monthly index which measures the number of homes under contract to sell, but not yet closed. As such, it’s among the few “forward-looking” housing indicators; a data set meant to predict future home sales. 

80% of homes under contract close within 2 months so, if the September Pending Home Sales Index is to be believed, we should expect home sales to decline through October and November. 

And that’s before we account for cancelled contracts.

Also from the National Association of REALTORS®, we learn that 18 percent of homes under contract failed to close in September. This is double the failure rate from September 2010 and it, too, should drag Existing Home Sales volume lower this fall.

On a seasonally-adjusted, regional basis, the Pending Home Sales Index fell everywhere. 

  • Northeast Region: -4.7% from August
  • Midwest Region : -6.2% from August
  • South Region : -5.5% from August
  • West Region : -2.1% from August

For home buyers and sellers in Orlando , though, regional data remains too broad to be useful. Housing markets are local, meaning that each block on each street on each city has its own distinct economy. When 9 states are grouped into a single “region”, it’s neither helpful nor relevant to people making buy/sell decisions.

That said, the Pending Home Sales Index remains important because it’s about housing, and housing is a keystone of the U.S. economic recovery.

The market looks ideal for buyers. Home prices are rising, but slowly; and mortgage rates remain near rock-bottom levels. Home affordability is high and should remain that way for the next few weeks.

If you’re shopping for a home, it’s an excellent time to go under contract.

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