Pending Home Sales Inch Forward in July

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, marginally increased 0.5 percent to 110.9 in July from an upwardly revised 110.4 in June and is now 7.4 percent above July 2014 (103.3).

Pending home sales — sales where the contract has been signed but the transaction has not yet closed — were mostly unchanged in July, but rose modestly for the sixth time in seven months, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the housing market began the second half of 2015 on a positive note, with pending sales slightly rising in July.

“Led by a solid gain in the Northeast, contract activity in most of the country held steady last month, which bodes well for existing-sales to maintain their recent elevated pace to close out the summer,” he said. “While demand and sales continue to be stronger than earlier this year, Realtors® have reported since the spring that available listings in affordable price ranges remain elusive for some buyers trying to reach the market and are likely holding back sales from being more robust.”

Looking ahead, with inventory shortages likely to persist into the fall, Yun expects the national median existing-home price to increase 6.3 percent in 2015 to $221,400. Yun forecasts total existing-home sales this year to increase 7.1 percent to around 5.29 million, about 25 percent below the prior peak set in 2005 (7.08 million).

“In light of the recent volatility in the stock market, it’s possible some prospective buyers may err on the side of caution and delay decisions, while others may view real estate as a more stable asset in the current environment,” said Yun. “Overall, the prospects for ongoing strength in the housing market remain intact for now. The U.S. economy is growing — albeit at a modest pace — and the labor market continues to add jobs.”

Adds Yun, “Uncertainty in the equity markets — even if the Fed raises short-term rates in September — could stabilize long-term mortgage rates and preserve affordability for buyers.”