Pending home sales once again struggled to overcome housing headwinds and slightly declined for the third time in four months, the latest report from the National Association of Realtors said.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, slightly declined 0.9% to 106.9 in November from an upwardly revised 107.9 in October. However, this is still 2.7% above November 2014 (104.1).

While the index continued to increase year-over-year for 15 consecutive months, last month’s annual gain was the smallest since October 2014 (2.6%).

November’s dip in contract activity continues the modestly slowing trend seen ever since pending sales peaked to an over nine year high back in May, Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said.

“Home prices rising too sharply in several markets, mixed signs of an economy losing momentum and waning supply levels have acted as headwinds in recent months despite low mortgage rates and solid job gains,” he said. “While feedback from Realtors continues to suggest healthy levels of buyer interest, available listings that are move-in ready and in affordable price ranges remain hard to come by for many would-be buyers.”

And the problems are expected to persist into the New Year. According to Yun, with existing housing inventory already below year ago levels and new home construction still deficient, it’s likely supply constraints and faster price appreciation will reappear once the spring buying season begins.

“Especially with mortgage rates likely on the rise, affordability issues could creep up enough to temper sales growth – especially to first-time buyers in higher priced markets,” adds Yun.

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