by Bill McBride on 3/27/2013
From the NAR: Pending Home Sales Slip on Constrained Inventory
The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, slipped 0.4 percent to 104.8 in February from a downwardly revised 105.2 in January, but is 8.4 percent higher than February 2012 when it was 96.6. Contract activity has been above year-ago levels for the past 22 months; the data reflect contracts but not closings.
The PHSI in the Northeast declined 2.5 percent to 82.8 in February but is 6.8 percent above February 2012. In the Midwest the index rose 0.4 percent to 103.6 in February and is 13.2 percent higher than a year ago. Pending home sales in the South slipped 0.3 percent to an index of 118.8 in February but are 12.1 percent above February 2012. In the West the index increased 0.1 percent in February to 101.4 but is 0.8 percent below a year ago.
“The volume of home sales appears to be leveling off with the constrained inventory conditions, and the leveling of the index means little change is likely in the pace of sales over the next couple months,” [Lawrence Yun , NAR chief economist] said.
As I’ve noted several times, with limited inventory at the low end and fewer foreclosures, we might see flat or even declining existing home sales. The key is that the number of conventional sales is increasing while foreclosures and short sales decline – and that is a sign of an improving market, even if total sales decline.