U.S. Pending Home Sales Barely Move, After a Low in December

U.S. Pending Home Sales Barely Move, After a Low in December

Residential News » North America Residential News Edition | By Francys Vallecillo | February 28, 2014 10:07 AM ET

Pending home sales in the U.S. were little changed in January after reaching the lowest level in more than two years the previous month.  

The pending home sales index -- based on contract signings and not final sales -- inched up 0.1 percent to 95.0 in January from an upwardly revised 94.9 in December, according to the National Association of Realtors. However, the index is 9.0 percent lower than the 104.4 reading in January 2013. 

The same factors that hindered activity in December may have also affected in January. 

"Ongoing disruptive weather patterns in much of the U.S. inhibited home shopping," Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said in the report. "Limited inventory also is playing a role, especially in the West, while credit remains tight and affordability isn't as favorable as it was a year ago."

Earlier this month, the NAR reported existing-home sales reached an 18-month low in January, after dropping for three consecutive months. 

Today's report shows monthly gains in pending home sales in the South and Northeast were offset by declines in the West and Midwest.

In the Northeast, the index increased 2.3 percent to 79.0 in January, but is 5.3 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index dropped 2.5 percent to 92.9 in January, and is 9.3 percent lower than January 2013. 

In the South, pending home sales increased 3.5 percent to an index of 111.2 in January, and is 5.5 percent below a year ago. The index in the West fell 4.8 percent in January to 84.2, and is 17.5 percent lower than last year.

Existing-home sales are forecast to be weak during the first three months of the year, with pricing continuing to grow due to limited inventory.

"Increasing new home construction can quickly solve two problems, producing more inventory and taming price growth," Mr. Yun said. 

Total existing-home sales are expected to reach just more than 5 million in 2014, slightly lower than last year. The national median existing-home price is predicted to grow between five and six percent this year. In January, the median existing-home price was $188,900, increasing 10.7 percent from last year.

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