Pending home sales up 2.1% in February

PHILADELPHIA – The number of contracts signed for existing-home purchases rose 2.1 percent in February from January, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday.
The number of agreements of sale signed during the month was 8.2 percent below February 2010, the Realtors’ association reported.
The group’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said contracts had been trending up since hitting bottom in June 2010.
Even with periodic monthly declines, the Realtors’ pending-sales index – reflecting agreements of sale that will close in one or two months – was 20 percent above the June low point, which was a consequence of the expiration of the federal housing tax credit April 30.
The Realtors’ numbers showed that the Northeast recorded the only decline in pending-sales numbers in February – 10.9 percent below January and 18.4 percent below February 2010. Yun attributed the drop to bad weather.
Although month-to-month numbers’ movements “can be instructive,” Yun warned that an uneven recovery requires looking at longer-term performance. “We may not see notable gains in existing-home sales in the near term,” he said.
Sales of both existing and new houses in February, reported a week ago, were not encouraging. National new-home sales for the month hit the lowest point since the Commerce Department began its record-keeping in 1963.
Builders say, however, that the new-home numbers reported in the month were actually closings of houses for which construction contracts had been signed three to six months earlier, and that there has been an uptick in deposits in recent weeks.
February national existing-home sales were 9.6 percent less than in January, the lowest rate in nine years, and 2.6 percent below the same month in 2010, the Realtors reported.
Unlike previous recoveries, economists don’t expect housing to be a factor in this one.

The Associated Press