Pending Home Sales on a Record Roll

Contract activity for pending home sales has risen for six straight months, a pattern not seen in the history of the index since it began in 2001, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in July, increased 3.2 percent to 97.6 from a reading of 94.6 in June, and is 12.0 percent higher than July 2008 when it was 87.1.  The index is at the highest level since June 2007 when it was 100.7.

NAR’s chief economist said the housing market momentum has clearly turned for the better. “The recovery is broad-based across many parts of the country. Housing affordability has been at record highs this year with the added stimulus of a first-time buyer tax credit,” he said.

Other buyers are taking advantage of low home values before prices turn higher.  Nationally, the typical mortgage payment now takes less than 25 percent of a middle-income family’s monthly income to buy a median priced home, with payment percentages so far in 2009 being the lowest on record dating back to 1970.  As long as home buyers stay within their budget, mortgage payments will be very manageable,” Yun said.

NAR estimates that about 1.8 to 2.0 million first-time buyers will take advantage of the $8,000 tax credit this year, with approximately 350,000 additional sales that would not have taken place without the credit.  Buyers have little time to act because they must complete the transaction by November 30 to qualify for the credit.  Unless extended, contracts signed but not completed by that date will not be eligible – it is taking approximately two months to complete home sales in the current market.

The Pending Home Sales Index in the Northeast declined 3.0 percent to 78.8 in July but is 4.7 percent higher than July 2008.  In the Midwest the index slipped 2.0 percent to 88.1 but is 8.1 percent above a year ago.  In the South, pending home sales activity rose 3.1 percent to an index of 103.8 in July and is 12.0 percent above July 2008.  In the West the index jumped 12.1 percent to 112.5 and is 20.0 percent above a year ago.

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