Pending home sales declined for the eighth straight month in February, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Modest increases in the Midwest and West were offset by declines in the Northeast and South; all regions are below a year ago. The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, dipped 0.8 percent to 93.9 from a downwardly revised 94.7 in January, and is 10.5 percent below February 2013 when it was 104.9. The February reading was the lowest since October 2011, when it was 92.2.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the recent slowdown in home sales may be behind us, while home prices continue to rise. “Contract signings for the past three months have been little changed, implying the market appears to be stabilizing,” he said. “Moreover, buyer traffic information from our monthly Realtor survey shows a modest turnaround, and some weather delayed transactions should close in the spring.”
The PHSI in the Northeast declined 2.4 percent to 77.1 in February, and is 7.4 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index rose 2.8 percent to 95.3 in February, but is 8.5 percent lower than February 2013. Pending home sales in the South fell 4.0 percent to an index of 106.3 in February, and are 9.3 percent below a year ago. The index in the West increased 2.3 percent in February to 86.1, but is 16.5 percent below February 2013.
Total existing-home sales are forecast at 5.0 million this year, just below the nearly 5.1 million in 2013. Housing starts are projected to rise almost 19 percent in 2014, and reach about 1.1 million, closer to the underlying demand of 1.5 million.
The gain in new home construction will reduce some of the pressure on home prices, with the national median existing-home price expected to rise in the range of 5.5 to 6 percent this year, compared with an 11.5 percent jump in 2013.