October Pending Home Sales Down Again, but Expected to Level Out

Although conditions were mixed across the country, pending home sales continued to move lower in October, marking the fifth consecutive monthly decline, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, slipped 0.6 percent to 102.1 in October from an upwardly revised 102.7 in September, and is 1.6 percent below October 2012 when it was 103.8. The index is at the lowest level since December 2012 when it was 101.3; the data reflect contracts but not closings.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said weaker activity was expected. “The government shutdown in the first half of last month sidelined some potential buyers. In a survey, 17 percent of Realtors® reported delays in October, mostly from waiting for IRS income verification for mortgage approval,” he said.

“We could rebound a bit from this level, but still face the headwinds of limited inventory and falling affordability conditions. Job creation and a slight dialing down from current stringent mortgage underwriting standards going into 2014 can help offset the headwind factors,” Yun said.

Yun said there are concerns heading into 2014. “New mortgage rules in January could delay the approval process, and another government shutdown would harm both housing and the economy,” he said.

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