The National Association of Realtors (NAR) Thursday morning released its data on pending sales of existing homes in April. The pending home sales index rose 0.4% from an index reading of 97.4 in March to the April reading of 97.8. That is 9.2% lower than in April 2013 when the index reading was 107.7. The consensus estimate called for a month-over-month increase of 1% in pending sales.
The index reflects signed contracts, not sales closings. An index reading of 100 equals the average level of contract signings during 2001.
NAR maintained its estimate for total existing home sales in 2014 to be "modestly" below the 2013 total of 5.1 million. The group forecast sales at 4.9 million last month. National median home prices are forecast to rise by about 5% to 6% this year, lower than last month's estimate for a rise of 6% to 7%.
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The NAR's chief economist noted:
Higher inventory levels are giving buyers more choices, and a slight decline in mortgage interest rates this spring is raising prospective home buyers’ confidence. An uptrend in closed sales is expected, although some months will encounter a modest setback.
Pending home sales in the Northeast increased 0.6% in April, posting an index reading of 79.3, down 12% from April 2013. The index jumped 5% in the Midwest but remains 6.9% below last year's reading. Sales slipped 0.6% in the South and declined by 2.0% in the West. Compared with April 2013, sales are down in all regions.