According to the National Association of Realtors, pending home sales rose in March, representing the first gain in the past nine months of stagnant activity, rising 3.4 percent to 97.4 percent from an upwardly revised 94.2 in February, but is 7.9 percent below March 2013 when it was 105.7.
Dr. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said a gain was inevitable. “After a dismal winter, more buyers got an opportunity to look at homes last month and are beginning to make contract offers,” he said.
“Sales activity is expected to steadily pick up as more inventory reaches the market, and from ongoing job creation in the economy,” Dr. Yun forecasts.
Regional performance varied
While pending home sales are up for the month and down for the year, regional performance is equally mixed.
In the Northeast, pending home sales rose 1.4 percent in March, but is down 5.9 percent from March 2013.
In the Midwest, the index fell by 0.8 percent for the month, but dipped 10.1 percent below a year ago.
In the South, pending home sales jumped 5.6 percent in March, but fell 5.3 percent for the year.
In the West, the index improved by 5.7 percent for the month, but is 11.1 percent below March 2013.
2014 is off to a weak start
NAR reports that home sales are expected to trend up through next year, but that 2014 started off with a whimper, with total sales unlikely to match the 2013 level.
Existing-home sales are expected to total just over 4.9 million this year, below the nearly 5.1 million in 2013. However, with ongoing inventory shortages in much of the U.S., the national median existing-home price is expected to grow between 6 and 7 percent in 2014.