Pending home sales make record comeback in May

by Kerrie Kennedy

After months of lockdowns and declines brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, pent-up demand surged in May as pending home sales increased by a record-setting 44.3% from last month, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings, rose from 69 in April to 99.6 in May, the highest month-over-month gain in the index since NAR began tracking contract activity in January 2001. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

While sales were still 5.1% lower than a year ago, every major region recorded an increase in month-over-month pending home sales transactions.

Pending home sales in the South increased 43.3% to an index of 125.5 in May, up 1.9% from May 2019. The South was the only region to experience a year-over-year increase in contract activity.

“This has been a spectacular recovery for contract signings and goes to show the resiliency of American consumers and their evergreen desire for homeownership,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a press release. “This bounce back also speaks to how the housing sector could lead the way for a broader economic recovery.”

NAR said it expects existing home sales to reach 4.93 million units in 2020 and new-home sales to hit 690,000.

“The outlook has significantly improved, as new-home sales are expected to be higher this year than last, and annual existing-home sales are now projected to be down by less than 10% — even after missing the spring buying season due to the pandemic lockdown,” Yun said.

While NAR noted that more home construction is needed in order to meet rising demand and counter the persistent underproduction of homes over the past decade, they are forecasting 2021 sales to rise up to 5.35 million units for existing homes and 800,000 for new homes.

“All figures light up in 2021 with positive [gross domestic product], employment, housing starts and home sales,” Yun added.