Pending home sales drop to lowest level since 2014

Pending Home Sales Index drops for 11th straight month, but National Association of Realtors' chief economist insists favorable mortgage rates will boost sales activity

The National Association of Realtors Pending Homes Sales Index dropped 7.7 percent year-over-year in November, marking the 11th straight month of annual decreases. The forward-looking indicator, which is based on contract signings, also decreased by 0.7 percent from October to November.

Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sought to tamp down long-term concerns in a prepared statement, despite pending contracts plunging to their lowest level since 2014.

“The latest decline in contract signings implies more short-term pullback in the housing sector and does not yet capture the impact of recent favorable conditions of mortgage rates,” Yun said in a statement issued Friday.

All four regions NAR tracks – the Northeast, South, Midwest and West – experienced year-over-year declines, with the western United States shouldering the biggest drop in pending home sales, likely due to affordability challenges.

“Land cost is expensive and zoning regulations are too stringent,” Yun said. “Therefore, local officials should consider ways to boost local supply; if not, they risk seeing population migrating to neighboring states and away from the West Coast.”

Looking ahead, Yun believes things will turn around. A potential rise in inventory is around the corner, judging by an increase in active listings on realtor.com, Yun said.

“Home sales in 2018 look to close out the year with 5.3 million home sales, which would be similar to that experienced in the year 2000,” Yun said. “But given the 17 million more jobs now compared to the turn of the century, the home sales are clearly underperforming today. That also means there is steady longer-term growth potential.”

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