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Pending Home Sales Decline in December, Remain Above a Year Ago

Media Contact: Walter Molony / 202-383-1177 / Email

WASHINGTON (January 25, 2012) - After reaching a 19-month high, pending home sales eased in December but stayed above year-ago levels, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, declined 3.5 percent to 96.6 in December from 100.1 in November but is 5.6 percent above December 2010 when it was 91.5. The data reflects contracts but not closings.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the trend line remains positive. “Even with a modest decline, the preceding two months of contract activity are the highest in the past four years outside of the homebuyer tax credit period,” he said. “Contract failures remain an issue, reported by one-third of Realtors® over the past few months, but home buyers are not giving up.”

Yun said some buyers successfully complete the sale after a contract delay, while others stay in the market after a contract failure and make another offer. “Housing affordability conditions are too good to pass up,” he said. “Our hope is lending conditions will gradually improve with sustained increases in closed existing-home sales.”

The PHSI in the Northeast declined 3.1 percent to 74.7 in December and is 0.8 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index rose 4.0 percent to 95.3 and is 13.3 percent higher than December 2010. Pending home sales in the South slipped 2.6 percent to an index of 101.1 in December but are 4.9 percent above a year ago. In the West the index fell 11.0 percent in December to 107.9 but is 3.7 percent higher than December 2010.

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: Existing-home sales for January will be reported February 22 and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be released February 27; release times are 10:00 a.m. EST.

Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org. This and other news releases are posted in the News Media section. Statistical data in this release, other tables and surveys also may be found by clicking on Research.

REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark which may be used only by real estate professionals who are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribe to its strict Code of Ethics. Not all real estate agents are REALTORS®. All REALTORS® are members of NAR.