NAR: Pending Home Sales In Stable Range
Continuing the trend seen in September, pending home sales eased in October, against a deteriorating economic backdrop -- but remain in a stable range, according to the National Association of Realtors. The NAR's Pending Home Sales Index released Tuesday, which is a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in October, slipped 0.7 percent to 88.9 from an upwardly revised reading of 89.5 in September, sitting 1.0 percent below pending sales one year ago. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said a review of the past year is instructive. "Despite the turmoil in the economy, the overall level of pending home sales has been remarkably stable over the past year, holding in a generally narrow range," he said. "We did see a spike in August when mortgage conditions temporarily improved, which underscores two things -- there is a pent-up demand, and access to safe, affordable mortgages will bring more buyers into the market." Conditions remain uneven around the country, but pending home sales in many Florida and California markets are showing healthy gains NAR reported, as are pending sales in Providence, R.I., Lansing, Mich., Oklahoma City and Las Vegas. Pending sales in the South jumped 7.8 percent to 95.9 in October but remain 2.9 percent below a year ago. In the Northeast the index rose 0.6 and in the Midwest it declined 4.3 percent. The West, experiencing the steepest tumble, fell 8.7 percent to 103.7 in October, still 17.4 percent higher than October of last year. NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth, said he's hopeful about considerations by the U.S. Treasury. "Efforts to bring down mortgage interest rates demonstrate a clear understanding of the role housing plays in stabilizing the economy," McMillan said. "We're very encouraged by all of the proposals getting serious consideration in Washington to help home buyers. More sales will stabilize home prices by bringing down inventory, and would lessen foreclosure pressure." Looking at middle-ground assumptions, according to NAR, existing-home sales are forecast to total 4.96 million this year, and then increase to 5.19 million in 2009 and 5.55 million in 2010. New-home sales for 2008 should total 486,000 this year, decline to 393,000 in 2009 and then grow to 446,000 in 2010. Housing starts, including multifamily units, are projected at 934,000 units in 2008 and 731,000 next year before rising to 772,000 in 2010. Read the NAR Report Write to Kelly Curran at firstname.lastname@example.org.