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. 

More Housing Strength : Pending Home Sales Surged In October

Pending Home Sales 18 Months Ending October 2011

If you’re waiting for home prices to reach its bottom, you may have missed your window.

After 3 consecutive months of easing, the Pending Home Sales Index jumped 10 percent in October, lending credence to the belief that housing is in recovery.

The Pending Home Sales Index is a monthly publication from the National Association of REALTORS®. It measures the number of homes under contract to sell nationwide. October’s reading is the highest for all of 2011, and the second-highest dating back to April 2010.

April 2010 was the last month of the last year’s federal home buyer tax credit.

For buyers and sellers in Winter Park and nationwide, the Pending Home Sales Index is a housing metric worth watching. Different from the Existing Home Sales and New Home Sales reports which report on “the past”, the Pending Home Sales Index is a forward-looking housing market indicator.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 80% of homes under contract close within 2 months.

The majority of the rest close within Months 3 and 4.

The spike in October’s Pending Home Sales Index, therefore, foretells a strong Existing Home Sales report for November and December. Not that we should be surprised! Home builders have been telling us for weeks that the market is strengthening, and that home supplies are at multi-year lows.

The only wild-card is the market’s out-sized contract failure rate. One in three pending home sales failed to close in October — nearly double the rate of the month prior and 4 times the rate of October 2010. Should this high failure rate continue, the Pending Home Sales Index’s role as a forward-looking indicator would be muted.

Overall, though, new buyer demand for housing accompanied a smaller home supply will result in higher home prices through 2012. And, with mortgage rates expected to rise, monthly carrying costs will be higher, too.

Looking at the data, the best time to buy a home may be right now.

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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