Pending home sales rebounded strongly in January, according to the National Association of Realtors. All four major regions saw growth in January, including the largest surge in the South.
The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, increased 4.6 percent to 103.2 in January, up from 98.7 in December. Year-over-year contract signings, however, declined 2.3 percent, making this the thirteenth straight month of annual decreases.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, had expected an increase in January home sales. "A change in Federal Reserve policy and the reopening of the government were very beneficial to the market," he said.
Of the four major regions, three areas experienced a decline compared to one year ago, while the Northeast enjoyed a slight growth spurt.
Yun also said higher rates discouraged many would-be buyers in 2018. "Homebuyers are now returning and taking advantage of lower interest rates, while a boost in inventory is also providing more choices for consumers."
Additionally, Yun noted year-over-year increases in active listings from data at realtor.comto illustrate the potential rise in inventory. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo., Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif., Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, and Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn., saw the largest increase in active listings in January compared to a year ago.
Yun says positive pending home sales figures in January will likely continue. "Income is rising faster than home prices in many areas and mortgage rates look to remain steady. Furthermore, job creation will help lift home buying."
January Pending Home Sales Regional Breakdown
In 2019, Yun forecasts for existing-home sales to be around 5.28 million – down 1.1 percent from 2018 (5.34 million). The national median existing-home price this year is expected to increase around 2.2 percent. In 2018, existing sales declined 3.1 percent and prices rose 4.9 percent.
The PHSI in the Northeast rose 1.6 percent to 94.0 in January, and is now 7.6 percent above a year ago. In the Midwest, the index rose 2.8 percent to 100.2 in January, 0.3 percent lower than January 2018.
Pending home sales in the South jumped 8.9 percent to an index of 119.8 in January, which is 3.1 percent lower than this time last year. The index in the West increased 0.3 percent in January to 87.3 and fell 10.1 percent below a year ago.
The National Association of Realtors® is America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 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. 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.