Pending home sales continued to gain in November and reached the highest level in 19 months, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, increased 7.3% to 100.1 in November from an upwardly revised 93.3 in October and is 5.9% above November 2010 when it stood at 94.5. The October upward revision resulted in a 10.4% monthly gain.
The last time the index was higher was in April 2010 when it reached 111.5 as buyers rushed to beat the deadline for the home buyer tax credit. The data reflects contracts but not closings.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the gains may result partially from delayed transactions. “Housing affordability conditions are at a record high and there is a pent-up demand from buyers who’ve been on the sidelines, but contract failures have been running unusually high. Some of the increase in pending home sales appears to be from buyers recommitting after an initial contract ran into problems, often with the mortgage,” he said.
“November is doing reasonably well in comparison with the past year. The sustained rise in contract activity suggests that closed existing-home sales, which are the important final economic impact figures, should continue to improve in the months ahead,” Yun added.
Pending home sales are not affected by the recently published rebenchmarking of existing-home sales because the index uses a different methodology based directly on contract signings, and is adjusted for seasonality.
The PHSI in the Northeast rose 8.1% to 77.1 in November but is 0.3% below November 2010. In the Midwest the index increased 3.3% to 91.6 in November and is 9.5% above a year ago. Pending home sales in the South rose 4.3 percent in November to an index of 103.8 and remain 8.7% above November 2010. In the West the index surged 14.9% to 121.2 in November and is 2.9% higher than a year ago.