WASHINGTON -- After months of stagnant activity, pending home sales rose in March, marking the first gain in the past nine months, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 3.4 percent to 97.4 from an upwardly revised 94.2 in February, but is 7.9 percent below March 2013 when it was 105.7.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said a gain was inevitable. "After a dismal winter, more buyers got an opportunity to look at homes last month and are beginning to make contract offers," he said. "Sales activity is expected to steadily pick up as more inventory reaches the market, and from ongoing job creation in the economy."
The PHSI in the Northeast increased 1.4 percent to 78.8 in March, but is 5.9 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index slipped 0.8 percent to 94.5 in March, and is 10.1 percent below March 2013. Pending home sales in the South rose 5.6 percent to an index of 112.7 in March, but are 5.3 percent below a year ago. The index in the West increased 5.7 percent in March to 91.0, but is 11.1 percent below March 2013.
Although home sales are expected to trend up over the course of the year and into 2015, this year began on a weak note and total sales are unlikely to match the 2013 level.
Existing-home sales are expected to total just over 4.9 million this year, below the nearly 5.1 million in 2013. However, with ongoing inventory shortages in much of the U.S., the national median existing-home price is expected to grow between 6 and 7 percent in 2014.