Pending home sales continue to climb in December
Pending home sales improved again in December, making this the fifth gain in the past six months, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator, increased 2.0% to 93.7 based on contracts signed in December from a downwardly revised 91.9 in November. The index is 4.2% below December 2009, when it was 97.8.
“Modest gains in the labor market and the improving economy are creating a more favorable backdrop for buyers, allowing them to take advantage of excellent housing affordability conditions,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Mortgage rates should rise only modestly in the months ahead, so we’ll continue to see a favorable environment for buyers with good credit.
“The latest pending sales gain suggests activity is very close to a sustainable, healthy volume of a mid-5 million total annual home sales. However, sales above 6 million, as occurred during the bubble years, are highly unlikely this year.”
The PHSI in the Northeast increased 1.8% to 73.9 in December but is 5.3% below December 2009. In the Midwest, the index rose 8.0% in December to 84.6 but is 5.1% below a year ago. Pending home sales in the South increased 11.5% to 101.9 and are 1.7% above December 2009. In the West, the index fell 13.2% to 105.8 and is 10.7% below a year ago.
The data reflect contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.
Ryland posts Q4 loss
Calabasas, Calif.-based Ryland Group has posted a net loss of $19.1 million for its fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2010, compared with net earnings of $39.0 million for the same period in 2009.
Home-building revenues were $221.1 million for quarter, down 45.5% from $405.3 million for the same period in 2009. This decrease was primarily due to a 45.4% decline in closings, totaling 909 units for the quarter, compared with 1,666 units for the same period in 2009.
The home-building segments posted a pretax loss of $17.2 million during the quarter, compared with a pretax loss of $55.1 million for year-ago period. New orders totaled 776 units for the quarter, down 19.9% from new orders of 969 units for the same period in 2009.
For the year ended Dec. 31, 2010, Ryland reported a consolidated net loss of $85.1 million, compared with a consolidated net loss of $162.5 million for the prior year.
Home-building revenues totaled $1.0 billion for the year, down 16.9% from $1.2 billion 2009.
The home-building segments reported a pretax loss of $47.1 million for the year, compared to a pretax loss of $245.3 million for 2009. Closings were 4,245 units for 2010, compared with 5,129 units for the same period in the prior year.
New home sales jump 17.5% in December
Sales of new single-family houses in December 2010 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 329,000, up 17.5% from the November pace of 280,000.
The December estimate, released jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is the highest since April 2010. That month saw a relative frenzy of buying as the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers expired April 30.
The December new home sales figure is also 7.6% below the December 2009 estimate of 356,000.
According to the government report, which was issued Wednesday, the median sales price of new houses sold in December 2010 was $241,500; the average sales price was $291,400. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of December was 190,000. This represents a supply of 6.9 months at the current sales rate.
On a regional basis, the strongest gains appeared in the West, where sales increased 71.9% compared to last month, and increased 32.5% compared to December 2009. The Northeast was less fortunate: down 5.0% compared to last month, and down 50.0% compared to the same month last year.