According to the National Association of Realtors, pending home sales increased in August 2019, a welcome rebound after a prior month of declines. Each of the four major regions reported both month-over-month growth and year-over-year gains in contract activity.
The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, climbed 1.6% to 107.3 in August, reversing the prior month's decrease. Year-over-year contract signings jumped 2.5%. An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity.
"It is very encouraging that buyers are responding to exceptionally low interest rates," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "The notable sales slump in the West region over recent years appears to be over. Rising demand will reaccelerate home price appreciation in the absence of more supply."
August Pending Home Sales Regional Breakdown
All regional indices are up from July, with the highest gain in the West region. The PHSI in the Northeast rose 1.4% to 94.3 in August and is now 0.7% higher than a year ago. In the Midwest, the index increased 0.6% to 101.7 in August, 0.2% higher than August 2018.
Pending home sales in the South increased 1.4% to an index of 124.4 in August, a 1.8% bump from last August. The index in the West grew 3.1% in August 2019 to 96.4, an increase of 8.0% from a year ago.
Yun noted that historically low interest rates will affect economic growth, especially home buying, going forward.
"With interest rates expected to remain low, home sales are forecasted to rise in the coming months and into 2020," said Yun. "Unfortunately, so far in 2019, new home construction is down 2.0%. The hope is that housing starts quickly move into higher gear to meet the higher demand. Moreover, broader economic growth will strengthen from increased housing activity."
The National Association of Realtors is forecasting home sales to rise 0.6% in 2019 and another 3.4% in 2020. Housing starts are predicted to increase by 2.0% in 2019 and jump an additional 10.6% in 2020, which in turn raises GDP to growth at 2.0% in 2020.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association's newly released Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI), U.S. mortgage credit availability decreased in December 2019.
The MCAI fell by 3.5 percent to 182.2 in December.
Based on research from Learnbonds.com indicates that U.S. mortgage debt is now the highest since the Great Depression in 2008. The outstanding US mortgage debt which has been growing steadily in recent years hit a record high of $15.8 trillion in Q3 2019.
Based on CoreLogic's latest Home Price Index for November 2019, U.S. home prices rose both year over year and month over month. Home prices increased nationally by 3.7% from November 2018. On a month-over-month basis, prices increased by 0.5% in November 2019.
The oldest Millennials, who will turn 40 in 2020, have lived through a turbulent decade of housing marked first by the initial recovery from the Great Recession, then the extraordinary home value growth of recent years.
According to the National Association of Realtors, existing-home sales fell in November 2019, taking a small step back after October's gains. The Northeast and Midwest both reported growth last month, while the South and West saw sales decline.
Demand for design services in November 2019 increased at a modest pace for the second month in a row. During November, both the new project inquiries and design contracts scores were positive, posting scores of 60.9 and 52.9 respectively.
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