Pending home sales index rises in September

Pending home sales, a measurement of homes on which contracts have been signed, rose 0.2 percent in September to a reading of 85.7, higher than the 85.5 figure recorded in August, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

That number is 20.4 percent lower than the pending home sales index of 107.6 recorded in September 2006.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year the index was examined by the NAR. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed, but the transaction has not closed.

“Even with relatively low fourth-quarter sales, 2007 will be the fifth highest year on record for existing-home sales,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “The median existing-home price in 2007 will have fallen by less than 2 percent from an all-time high set in 2006.”

The September index rose 5.4 percent in the Midwest to 82.3 compared with August, but is 14.4 percent below a year ago.  In the South, the index increased 1.5 percent to 99.3 but is 19.7 percent lower than September 2006.  The index in the West slipped 0.1 percent in September to 80.5 and is 25.6 percent below a year ago.  In the Northeast, the index dropped 10.1 percent in September to 69.5 and is 23.1 percent below September 2006.

“Some markets are still going strong, such as Austin and Raleigh, while others are showing early signs of recovery, like Denver and Boston,” said Yun.  “However, a vast portion of the nation’s midsection is under-priced in relation to income, and prices in some markets could rise notably with good local job gains.”