A forward-looking economic indicator
According to newly released data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), a measure of contract signings, rose 0.3 percent in September from August, barely cause for any noise, however, looking at the PHSI data over the year, it is evident that contracts are up 14.5 percent compared to September 2011. The PHSI is considered a forward-looking economic indicator, used to gauge what the volume of closed transactions will be in coming months.
NAR’s Chief Economist, Dr. Lawrence Yun said, “Home contract activity remains at an elevated level in contrast with recent years, but currently appears to be bouncing around in a narrow range. This means only minor movement is likely in near-term existing-home sales, but with positive underlying market fundamentals they should continue on an uptrend in 2013.”
While housing has a long road ahead before anyone can call it a full recovery, small, yet positive economic indicators in housing are slowly emerging, with the PHSI being one of them, given that it has risen for 17 consecutive months on a year-over-year basis.
Regional performances varied
Compared to September 2011, all regions experienced double-digit increases in contract activity, but most barely changed for the month. The exception is the West region, whose PHSI index rose 4.3 percent for the month, but is only up 0.8 percent for the year, which NAR says is due to limited inventory levels there.
The PHSI in the Northeast rose 1.4 percent to 79.3 in September and is 26.1 percent higher than a year ago. In the Midwest the index fell 5.8 percent to 89.5 in September but is 19.3 percent above September 2011. Pending home sales in the South increased 1.0 percent to an index of 111.5 in September and are 17.6 percent higher than a year ago.
NAR reports that “Housing affordability conditions are forecast to remain favorable through next year, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage staying near record lows for the balance of this year but gradually rising to 4 percent in the second half of 2013.”
Additionally, the trade group says that completed existing-home sales in 2012 will total close to 4.6 million (an increase of 9.0 percent), and are projected to rise about 9.0 percent next year to nearly 5.1 million. With notably lower housing inventory, the national median existing-home price is expected to increase 6.0 percent this year and 5.0 percent in 2013.