Pending home sales improved in March
The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 1.5% to 105.7 in March from a downwardly revised 104.1 in February, and is 7% above March 2012 when it was 98.8, according to the National Association of Realtors. Pending sales have been above year-ago levels for the past 23 months; the data reflect contracts but not closings.
"Contract activity has been in a narrow range in recent months, not from a pause in demand but because of limited supply," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "Little movement is expected in near-term sales closings, but they should edge up modestly as the year progresses," he said. "Job additions and rising household wealth will continue to support housing demand."
The PHSI in the Northeast was unchanged at 82.8 in March and is 6.3% higher than March 2012. In the Midwest the index increased 0.3% to 103.8 in March and is 13.7% above a year ago. Pending home sales in the South rose 2.7% to an index of 120.0 in March and are 10.4% higher than March 2012. In the West the index increased 1.5% in March to 102.9 but is 4.3% below a year ago.
Total existing-home sales are projected to increase 6.5% to 7% over 2012 to nearly 5 million sales this year, while the national median existing-home price is forecast to rise about 7.5%.
Improving markets list totals 258 metros
The number of U.S. housing markets showing improvement in three key measures fell to 258 in May from 273 in April, according to the NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI). This total includes entrants from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The IMI identifies metropolitan areas that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months. Four new markets were added to the list, and 19 were dropped from it this month. Newcomers include the metros of Dothan, Ala.; Elizabethtown, Ky.; Salisbury, Md.; and Salem, Ore.
“The fact that over 70% of all U.S. metros are holding onto their spots on the improving list is definitely good news, and representative of the generally brightening outlook for housing markets nationwide,” said NAHB Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “That said, our industry’s progress on the road to recovery is being slowed by rising challenges related to the availability of credit, building materials, labor and lots for development.”
The IMI is designed to track housing markets throughout the country that are showing signs of improving economic health. The index measures three sets of independent monthly data to get a mark on the top Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The three indicators that are analyzed are employment growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, house price appreciation from Freddie Mac and single-family housing permit growth from the U.S. Census Bureau.
A complete list of all 258 metropolitan areas currently on the IMI, and separate breakouts of metros newly added to or dropped from the list in May, is available at www.nahb.org/imi.
Radius Garden to market Miracle-Gro tools
Radius Garden has announced it is marketing and selling a line of Miracle-Gro Branded Garden Tools under a licensing agreement with Scotts Miracle-Gro.
Bruce Baker, founder and president of Radius Garden said, "Miracle-Gro is a true household name, and we are excited to develop, market, and sell our innovative and unique tools with this great brand. We have launched a line of our patented ergonomic hand tools, and are proud to report we have national distribution with Ace Hardware, True Value and Do it Best Corp., as well as with many lawn and garden distributors."
Radius Garden will feature the Miracle-Gro garden tools in its booth at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas at Booth 11250.