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January Pending Home Sales Down Due to Weather Fluctuations

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RISMEDIA, March 7, 2007-Pending home sales declined in January from a strong upturn in December due to unusual weather patterns, according to the National Association of Realtors(R).

The Pending Home Sales Index, a leading indicator for the housing sector based on contracts signed in January, fell 4.1% to an index of 108.7 from an upwardly revised reading of 113.3 in December, and is 8.9% lower than January 2006.

Aside from December, which got a lift from mild weather, the January index was the highest since last August. More importantly, there has been a narrowing trend from year-ago levels since last July when the index was 14.7% lower than a year earlier.

David Lereah, NAR's chief economist, said the index has recovered from a low in October. "We are seeing temporary near-term weather disruptions in much of the country, but there is an underlying pattern of stabilization in the housing market," he said. "As a result of these weather disruptions, it may take a couple months for the picture to fully clarify, but a modest recovery is likely. Housing remains a great long-term investment."

As reported last month, the PHSI for December got a boost from mild weather and showed the largest monthly gain in nearly three years. December's index rose 4.5%, the largest increase since a 6.1% jump in March 2004.

"The rapid shift in January to frigid air in much of the country had a cooling affect on home shopping that went beyond normal seasonal factors," Lereah explained. "Weather disruptions have continued since."

The index is derived from pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed and the transaction has not closed; pending sales typically are finalized within one or two months of signing.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, the first year to be examined and the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales. There is a closer relationship between annual changes in the index and actual market performance than with month-to-month comparisons.

The PHSI in the Northeast jumped 9.3% in January to 101.8 but was 1.3% below a year ago. The index in the West rose 0.2% to 110.8 but was 7.0% below January 2006. In the Midwest, the index was down 2.4% in January to 100.1 and was 10.8% lower than a year earlier. The index in the South fell 11.7% to 116.7 and was 11.8% below January 2006.

For more information, visit http://www.realtor.org.

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