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VICTORIA SCHEY
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September Pending Home Sales Show Slight Improvement

WASHINGTON (October 25, 2012) - Pending home sales were little changed in September but remain well above a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, edged up 0.3 percent to 99.5 in September from 99.2 in August and is 14.5 percent above September 2011 when it was 86.9. The data reflect contracts but not closings.

Lawrence Yun , NAR chief economist, said pending home sales continue to hold a higher ground. "Home contract activity remains at an elevated level in contrast with recent years, but currently appears to be bouncing around in a narrow range," Yun said. "This means only minor movement is likely in near-term existing-home sales, but with positive underlying market fundamentals they should continue on an uptrend in 2013."

Pending home sales have risen for 17 consecutive months on a year-over-year basis, leading to the solid recovery seen in closed existing-home sales this year. In September all regions were showing double-digit increases in contract activity from a year ago with the exception of the West, which is constrained by limited inventory.

The PHSI in the Northeast rose 1.4 percent to 79.3 in September and is 26.1 percent higher than a year ago. In the Midwest the index fell 5.8 percent to 89.5 in September but is 19.3 percent above September 2011. Pending home sales in the South increased 1.0 percent to an index of 111.5 in September and are 17.6 percent higher than a year ago. In the West the index rose 4.3 percent in September to 106.9, but is only 0.8 percent above September 2011.

Housing affordability conditions are forecast to remain favorable through next year, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage staying near record lows for the balance of this year but gradually rising to 4 percent in the second half of 2013.

Completed existing-home sales in 2012 will total close to 4.6 million, an increase of 9 percent, and are projected to rise about 9 percent next year to nearly 5.1 million. With notably lower housing inventory, the national median existing-home price is expected to increase 6 percent this year and 5 percent in 2013.

The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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* The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.

The index 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 as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales; it coincides with a level that is historically healthy.

NOTE: Metropolitan area median existing-home prices for the third quarter will be published November 7, existing-home sales for October will be reported November 19 and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be on November 29; release times are 10:00 a.m. EST.



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Fed hopes to extend lower mortgage rates

WASHINGTON – June 22, 2012 – The Federal Reserve announced it would extend its Operation Twist program to the end of the year, pushing down long-term interest rates in another effort to spur home purchases and business investments.

The program, which began last September, was set to expire this month. Through Operation Twist, the Fed buys long-term Treasuries and sells them as short-term bonds. The Fed said it would transfer another $267 billion over the next six months to longer-term notes to try to push down rates.

“We are prepared to do what is necessary,” Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said. “We are prepared to provide support for the economy.”

Even though the Great Recession ended three years ago, the Fed says the economy and job market will take longer than expected to recover. The Fed anticipates that unemployment will be around 7.5 percent to 8 percent by the end of 2013.

Some analysts are skeptical that the Fed’s latest move will spur any jump-start to the housing market. Anthony Valeri, a strategist for LPL Financial, told USA Today that the ailing job market will continue to hamper the housing market’s recovery, as well as discourage consumers from borrowing and banks from lending.

Source: “Fed Extends Operation Twist to Lower Long-Term Rates,” USA Today (June 20, 2012)




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Fla. housing market upbeat in Jan. 2012

ORLANDO, Fla. – Feb. 22, 2012 – Florida’s housing market reported gains in median sales prices and a reduced inventory of homes for sale in January, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®.

“We’re seeing positive signs of a strengthening recovery in Florida’s housing market,” says 2012 Florida Realtors President Summer Greene, regional manager of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Florida 1st in Fort Lauderdale. “In both the statewide single-family and condo-townhome markets, pending sales are higher and the statewide median sales price rose – up 5.3 percent to $129,000 for single-family homes and up 18.8 percent to $95,000 for condo-townhomes. Improving the availability of affordable financing to qualified buyers and investors would continue to stabilize Florida’s housing market and economy.”

The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less. Sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes, according to housing industry analysts.

The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in December 2011 was $165,100, which is 2.5 percent below the previous year, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in December was $285,920; in Maryland, it was $222,934.

Florida statewide sales of existing single-family homes totaled 12,044 in January 2012, down 5.5 percent compared to the year-ago figure, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department and vendor partner 10K Research and Marketing.

Looking at Florida’s year-to-year comparison for sales of condos/townhomes, a total of 5,963 units sold statewide last month, down 22.6 percent from those sold in January 2011. According to NAR, the national median existing condo price in December 2011 was $160,000.

“Even though closed sales are down from a year ago, there are two really bright spots in Florida’s housing market,” said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. “One is a significant increase in pending sales. In fact, pending sales have been up every month since May. The barrier that stands between pending sales and closings is the difficulty consumers are experiencing in obtaining financing.

“The second positive is inventories, which are now at a point close to a balanced market,” Tuccillo said. The months supply of inventory stands at 6.4 for both the single-family homes market and the condos/townhomes market.

The interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.92 percent in January 2012, down from the 4.76 percent average during the same month a year earlier, according to Freddie Mac.

To see the full statewide housing activity report, go to Florida Realtors Media Center at http://media.floridarealtors.org/ and look under Latest Releases, or download the report under Market Data at: http://media.floridarealtors.org/market-data.

The January 2012 Florida Realtors home sales release marks a new statewide housing market reporting partnership between Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department and a new vendor partner, 10K Research and Marketing. Housing sales data from the state’s 63 local Realtor organizations is collected and organized with the goal of providing unique, localized market reports to the local Realtor boards and associations within Florida Realtors, enabling the groups and their Realtor members to serve as the definitive voice of real estate in their respective local markets.

At the same time, Florida Realtors is providing comprehensive statewide housing market statistics – but this new data series only includes statewide numbers. Beginning with this January 2012 housing data report, Florida Realtors is no longer reporting any market data for Realtor members’ sales in the state’s metropolitan statistical areas, as had previously been reported in partnership with the University of Florida’s Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies.

© 2012 Florida Realtors®