Pending home sales grew slighly in November as contracts in the South and West grew, offseting declines in both the Northeast and Midwest, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.
The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed, edged up 0.2% to an index score of 101.7 in November, compared to a revised score of 101.5 in October. The index is now down 1.6% from a score of 103.3 last year.
While the market still favors buyers in most of the country, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said the market is flattening and higher mortgage interest rates in combination with strong price gains could mean more modest growth in 2014.
"We may have reached a cyclical low because the positive fundamentals of job creation and household formation are likely to foster a fairly stable level of contract activity in 2014," Yun said.
"Although the final months of 2013 are finishing on a soft note, the year as a whole will end with the best sales total in seven years," he explained.
Across the country, the PHSI in the Northeast fell 2.7% to 82.6 in November, but is still 1.9% above year ago levels.
Meanwhile, the Midwest index fell 3.1% to 100.6 in November, but is 0.4% higher than a year earlier.
Pending home sales in the South grew 2.3% to an index score of 116.1 in November, up 0.1% from a year ago.
In the West, the PHSI increased 1.8% in November to 95.0, but is 8.7% below November 2012, in part from inventory constraints.
As a whole, total existing-home sales this year are expected to reach 5.1 million, almost 10% over 2012. However, it should stay at that level in 2014, and then rise to 5.3 million in 2015.
In addition, the national median existing-home price for all of this year will be close to $197,300, roughly 12% higher than it was in 2012. It is estimated to continue to rise at a more moderate pace of 5% to 5.5% in 2014, and grow another 4% in 2015.