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Pending Home Sales (May 2009 - November 2010)The housing market continues to expand, and surprise.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, November’s Pending Home Sales Index gained 3 percent from October. A “pending home sale” is a home under contract but not yet closed.

The index is now at its highest point since April 2010’s federal tax credit contract expiration deadline.

If the tax credit really did “borrow” sales from the summer months, as has been theorized, housing has rebuilt its foundation.

We know this because, of all the housing data available to  homeowners and home buyers, the Pending Home Sales Index stands apart as a forward-looking report — its designed purpose as described in its methodology.

Because 80% of all homes under contract close within 60 days, and a statistically significant share of the rest close within months 3 and 4, the Pending Home Sales Index is an excellent predictor of future Existing Home Sales data.

This is in contrast to the New Home Sales data and Case-Shiller Index, as examples, which both describe the real estate market as it existed two months in the past. The Pending Home Sales Index reports on housing as it exists right now. We should expect January’s Existing Home Sales report, therefore, to show marked strength, consistent with a housing market recovery.

The downside of the Pending Home Sales Index is that it’s a national report and real estate is not sold nationally — it’s sold locally. To get a feel for your home market and how it’s faring, talk to a licensed real estate agent with access to local home sale data.

If pending sales data is available, so much the better. Forward-looking figures can be more helpful than data that’s already old.

Pending Home Sales (Apr 2009 - Oct 2010)The Pending Home Sales Index surged 10 percent in October as low mortgage rates and low home prices spurred buyers into action.

A “pending home sale” is an existing home under contract to sell, but not yet closed. The Pending Home Sales Index is at its highest level since April 2010 — the contract deadline date for this year’s federal home buyer tax credit program.

The jump may also explain why home builder confidence is rising even as the number of new homes sold fades. Builders are seeing buyers’ renewed interest in housing first-hand and expect the next 6 months to be dramatically better.

On a regional basis, gains in October’s Pending Home Sales Index varied as compared to September. The Midwest led the charge, and the West was the laggard.

  • Northeast Region: +19.6%
  • Midwest Region : +27.3%
  • South Region : +7.1%
  • West Region : -0.4%

Home buyers should take last month’s Pending Home Sales Index to heart. According to the National Association of Realtors®, 80 percent of homes under contract close within 60 days, so we can reasonably expect November’s and December’s existing homes sales data to be similarly strong.

In other words, the housing market is heating up and may have already shifting toward sellers. Changes like that lower buyer leverage, and increase the cost of homeownership. Coupled with rising mortgage rates, the shift is even more defined.

The best time to buy a home this year may have already passed. The next best time may be right now.

Talk to your real estate agent if you’re planning to buy a home in 2011. It may be smart to move up your time frame.

Existing Home Supply (Oct 2009-2010)After two months of surging sales, home resales fell by 100,000 units last month to 4.4 million homes nationwide.

October’s Existing Home Sales tally is slightly below the report’s 6-month rolling average, according to the National Association of REALTORS® — a time span which includes this year’s $8,000 federal home buyer tax credit’s tail end.

Housing statistics have been wildly inconsistent during that period.

For the future of housing markets, though, it’s encouraging that first-time and investment property buyers were both outnumbered by “move-up” buyers; buyers that have sold their respective homes in favor of larger ones. It’s the move-up buyers that power housing.

In October, buyer profiles broke down as follows:

  • First-time buyers : 32 percent of all buyers, unchanged from September
  • Repeat home buyers : 49 percent of all buyers, down one tick from September
  • Investors : 19 percent of all buyers, up one tick from September

As a point of comparison, first-timers represented 50 percent of all purchases in October 2009.

For home buyers, October’s Existing Home Sales report is neither weak nor strong. It signals that, with mortgage rates low and home affordability high, housing may be reaching some form of balance. Because — although home sales are down — home supplies are down, too.

We can infer that buyers outnumber sellers, but probably not by much. In most areas, negotiation leverage is still up for grabs.

At the current pace of sales, the complete housing stock would be depleted in 10.6 months.

Existing Home Sales (Sept 2009-Sept 2010)Existing home sales jumped 10 percent in September, the biggest monthly jump on record and a signal that the housing market may be returning to a normal sales pattern post-$8,000 federal tax credit.

Existing Home Sales counts home resales (i.e. not new construction) and 80 percent of home resales close within 45-60 days. It’s no surprise, therefore, September’s data is strong.

Throughout the July and August, mortgage rates were in free-fall, pushing home affordability to near-record levels. Concurrently, the number of homes available for sale climbed to multi-year highs.

“Deals” were in ample supply this summer and eager home buyers snatched them up.

Some of these deals included “distressed properties”, a categorization that includes homes in various stages of foreclosure or short sale, accounted for 35 percent of all sales, an uptick of 1 percent from August.

According to the National Association of Realtors®, home resales split as follows:

  • First-time buyers : 32 percent of all buyers
  • Repeat home buyers : 50 percent of all buyers
  • Investors : 18 percent of all buyers

By contrast, in November 2009, first-timers accounted for more than half of all resales.

For home buyers, September’s Existing Home Sales report foreshadows a more competitive housing market through the New Year. In addition to rising sales volume, home supplies are down by nearly 2 months from July.

At the current pace of sales, the complete housing stock would be depleted in 10.7 months.