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Pending Home Sales Tick Up In November, First Time In Five Months

The nation’s pending home sales nosed up 0.2% in November, ending five straight months of decline, the National 


Association of Realtors said Monday.

NAR’s’ Pending Home Sales Index scooted to 101.7 in November, above October’s (revised downward) 101.5 level. NAR and others blamed October’s weak figures in part on the government shutdown. But the real problem is rising home prices and mortgage rates, which continue to affect the latest numbers. November’s figure is still 1.6% percent below the pending home sales figure one year earlier, in November 2012.

The Pending Home Sales Index measures housing activity based on signed real estate contracts for existing single-family homes, condos and co-ops (not new development). Because it tracks contracts signed, not sales closed, it is considered a more up-to-the-moment indicator than the NAR’s Existing Homes Sales index, which track closings. (Most closings take four to six weeks.) Existing home sales fell in November for the 3rd straight month, but given the uptick in contracts signed, should rise again down the road.

Monday’s numbers show the pace of sales varying greatly by region, with growth in the South and West offsetting declines in the Northeast and Midwest. In the Northeast, the index declined 2.7% in November, but was 1.9% above year-ago levels. In the Midwest, pending sales fell 3.1%, but were 0.4% above November 2012. Pending home sales in the South increased 2.3% this November (0.1% year-over-year); in the West were up 1.8% (8.7% below November 2012).

Yun said the market still favors buyers in most of the country, but higher mortgage interest rates in combination with strong price gains mean a more modest growth in values in 2014.

NAR says the national median existing-home price for all of this year will be close to $197,300, up nearly 12% from 2012. In 2014, prices are projected to rise at a more moderate pace of 5 to 5.5%, and in 2015 to grow another 4%.

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