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Pending home sales bounce back across U.S.

Pending home sales saw a stout bounce back to start the year, with the National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index shooting up to 103.2 in January.

That’s up 4.5 percentage points from 98.7 this past December. The index, which is an indicator maintained by NAR based on contract signings, had previously been on a steady downward track, falling incrementally from 106.6 in June 2018 to a sub-100 mark (a 12-month low) to end the year. An index of 100 equates to average contract activity in 2001, the index's first year.

HouseForSaleIt’s a surprise given the index’s prior trajectory, but NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun was anticipating the rebound.

"A change in Federal Reserve policy and the reopening of the government were very beneficial to the market," Yun said. "Homebuyers are now returning and taking advantage of lower interest rates, while a boost in inventory is also providing more choices for consumers."

All regions of the country saw month-to-month growth, including an 8.9 percent swell in the South to an index of 119.8. The Midwest (2.8 percent), Northeast (1.6 percent) and West (0.3 percent) saw more modest increases.

Not all the data is rosy, however. Although pending home sales rebounded from their month-to-month slide, year-over-year contract signings are still down 2.3 percent — the 13th consecutive month of year-to-year declines.

Only the Northeast saw an annual uptick, with sales up 7.6 percent compared to January 2018. The West, in particular, continues to lag behind last year, posting a 10.1 percent decrease compared to this time last year. Likewise, the South (3.1 percent) and Midwest (0.3 percent) also were down on an annual basis.

Still, Yun said, positive pending home-sales numbers offer optimism.

"Income is rising faster than home prices in many areas and mortgage rates look to remain steady,” he said. “Furthermore, job creation will help lift homebuying."


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