Pending home sales take another dive in April

Hammered by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, pending home sales experienced their second consecutive month of double-digit declines in April.

The Pending Home Sales Index, maintained by the National Association of Realtors, fell to 69 in April – down 21.8 percent from March and 33.8 percent from April 2019. An index of 100 is equal to contract activity in 2001, where home sales fell into the range of 5 million to 5.5 million – considered normal for the current population of the United States.

A pending sale is defined as a transaction where a contract has been signed but the sale has not yet been finalized. Since this action typically takes place within a couple of months, the Pending Home Sales Index acts as an indicator of home sales activity in the near future.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, says the decline in pending sales is the steepest recorded since the organization began tracking the data in January 2001. He said the palpable slowdown is not surprising given that nearly all states had stay-at-home orders in place in April, but was optimistic that housing activity will recover swiftly.

"While coronavirus mitigation efforts have disrupted contract signings, the real estate industry is 'hot' in affordable price points with the wide prevalence of bidding wars for the limited inventory," said Yun. "In the coming months, buying activity will rise as states reopen and more consumers feel comfortable about homebuying in the midst of the social distancing measures."

In the most recent update of his home sales forecast, Yun said he expects sales to drop by 11 percent compared to 2019 while the median home price will increase by 4 percent. This marked an improvement from a previous forecast in which Yun forecasted a 15 percent drop in sales and no increase in the median home price.

Pending sales in the Northeast were roughly halved, with the region's index of 42.6 marking a 48.2 percent decrease from the previous month and 52.6 percent decrease from the previous year. Declines were less pronounced in other areas, with the next most prominent drop occurring in the West. In this region, the pending home sales index fell 20 percent from March and 37.2 percent from April 2019 to 57.1.

The Pending Home Sales Index in the Midwest fell 15.9 percent from the previous month and 26 percent from the previous year to 72. In the South, the index was down to 87.6 – a 15.4 percent drop from March and 29.6 percent decline from April 2019.

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