Pending home sales resumed their upward trajectory in August after declining 2.5 percent in July, making for positive results in three of the last four months. It was also the third winning sales report this month after solid existing and new home sales.
The National Association of Realtors'® (NAR's) Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator of existing home sales based on signed contracts to purchase those homes. It rose 1.6 percent to 107.3 in August from a July reading of 105.6. This puts pending sales 2.5 percent higher than in the previous August.
The number was at the high end of analysts projections. Those polled by Econoday had expected pending sales to be anywhere from flat compared to July to a 1.8 percent gain. The consensus was an increase of 0.6 percent.
The index rose in all regions, but the West put in the best performance, with a 3.1 percent increase to 96.4. This would put it 8.0 percent higher year-over-year. Pending sales in the Northeast rose 1.4 percent for the month and 0.7 percent on an annual basis to 94.3.
The Midwest posted a 0.6 percent gain to 101.7 in August and was 0.2 percent higher than a year earlier. The South's PHSI rose 1.4 percent to 124.4, a 1.8 percent annual bump.
NAR Chief Economists Lawrence Yun said, "It is very encouraging that buyers are responding to exceptionally low interest rates. The notable sales slump in the West region over recent years appears to be over. Rising demand will reaccelerate home price appreciation in the absence of more supply."
He noted that historically low interest rates will affect economic growth, especially home buying, going forward. "With interest rates expected to remain low, home sales are forecasted to rise in the coming months and into 2020," said Yun. "Unfortunately, so far in 2019, new home construction is down 2.0 percent. The hope is that housing starts quickly move into higher gear to meet the higher demand. Moreover, broader economic growth will strengthen from increased housing activity."
With sales picking up, NAR is forecasting they will end the year 0.6 percent higher than in 2018 and will grow another 3.4 percent next year. Housing starts are predicted to increase by 2.0 percent in 2019 and jump an additional 10.6 percent in 2020, which in turn raises GDP growth to 2.0 percent in 2020.
The PHSI is a leading indicator of existing home sales and is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the Index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months.
An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined. By coincidence, the volume of existing-home sales in 2001 fell within the range of 5.0 to 5.5 million, which is considered normal for the current U.S. population.