Pending home sales declined for the fourth consecutive month in September, as higher mortgage interest rates and higher home prices curbed buying power, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.
The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, fell 5.6 percent to 101.6 in September from a downwardly revised 107.6 in August, and is 1.2 percent below September 2012 when it was 102.8. The index is at the lowest level since December 2012 when it was 101.3; the data reflect contracts but not closings.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said concerns over the government shutdown also played a role. “Declining housing affordability conditions are likely responsible for the bulk of reduced contract activity,” he said. “In addition, government and contract workers were on the sidelines with growing insecurity over lawmakers’ inability to agree on a budget. A broader hit on consumer confidence from general uncertainty also curbs major expenditures such as home purchases.”
Yun notes this is the first time in 29 months that pending home sales weren’t above year-ago levels. “This tells us to expect lower home sales for the fourth quarter, with a flat trend going into 2014. Even so, ongoing inventory shortages will continue to lift home prices, though at a slower single-digit growth rate next year.”