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March Pending Home Sales Improve but Overall Pace Leveling

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

WASHINGTON (April 29, 2013) - Pending home sales increased in March and remain above year-ago levels, but contract activity in recent months shows only modest movement, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 1.5 percent to 105.7 in March from a downwardly revised 104.1 in February, and is 7.0 percent above March 2012 when it was 98.8. Pending sales have been above year-ago levels for the past 23 months; the data reflect contracts but not closings.

Lawrence Yun , NAR chief economist, said the market appears to be leveling off. "Contract activity has been in a narrow range in recent months, not from a pause in demand but because of limited supply. Little movement is expected in near-term sales closings, but they should edge up modestly as the year progresses," he said. "Job additions and rising household wealth will continue to support housing demand."

The PHSI in the Northeast was unchanged at 82.8 in March and is 6.3 percent higher than March 2012. In the Midwest the index increased 0.3 percent to 103.8 in March and is 13.7 percent above a year ago. Pending home sales in the South rose 2.7 percent to an index of 120.0 in March and are 10.4 percent higher than March 2012. In the West the index increased 1.5 percent in March to 102.9 but is 4.3 percent below a year ago.

Total existing-home sales are projected to increase 6.5 to 7 percent over 2012 to nearly 5 million sales this year, while the national median existing-home price is forecast to rise about 7.5 percent.

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. For additional commentary and consumer information, visit www.houselogic.com and http://retradio.com.

* 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. By coincidence, the volume of existing-home sales in 2001 fell within the range of 5.0 to 5.5 million, which is considered normal for the current U.S. population.

NOTE: Existing-home sales for April will be reported May 22 and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be on May 30. First quarter metro area home prices will be published May 9; all release times are 10:00 a.m. EDT.