Pending home sales see spring boost in March

The rate of pending home sales in the United States saw a sizable boost in March, according to the National Association of Realtors. However, it was also also down on an annual basis for the 15th consecutive month.

The Pending Home Sales Index for March stood at 105.8, a 3.8 percent increase from February. This figure was down 1.2 percent from March 2018.

The index measures transactions where a contract has been signed but a sale has not yet been finalized. This action typically takes place within a couple of months, allowing the index to serve as a forward-looking indicator of existing home sales activity. A figure of 100 is equal to contract activity in 2001, when these sales fell between 5 million and 5.5 million – a rate considered normal for the current U.S. population.

"We are seeing a positive sentiment from consumers about home buying, as mortgage applications have been steadily increasing and mortgage rates are extremely favorable," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors.

Yun said the data in the West was particularly indicative of buyer enthusiasm. Pending sales increased at a fairly stable rate for the previous five months, but in March the index spiked 8.7 percent to 95.1 – a year-over-year decrease of 1.6 percent.

"Despite some affordability issues in the West, the numbers indicate that there is a reason for optimism. Inventory has increased, too," said Yun. "These are great conditions for the region."

The South was the only region with some annual increase in pending sales. The index of 127.2 in these states marked a year-over-year increase of 0.7 percent as well as a 4.4 increase from February.

In the Northeast, the Pending Home Sales Index dropped 1.7 percent from the previous month and 0.4 percent from the previous year to 90.5. The index of 95.3 in the Midwest was up 2.3 percent from February, but 5 percent lower than in March 2018.

Yun said that while the month's data is encouraging, he still considered home sales to be underperforming.

"In the year 2000, we had 5 million home sales. Today, we are close to that same number, but there are 50 million more people in the country," said Yun. "There is a pent-up demand in the market, and we should see a better performing market in the coming quarters and years."

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