Homes Under Contract Hold Steady Despite Bad Weather, Tight Credit

Pending home sales remained unchanged in January despite tight credit and the polar vortex.

The real estate market held steady in January, although homebuyers continued to struggle with tight credit, a lack of inventory, and frigid winter weather. The number of homes under contract to sell but not yet closed was essentially unchanged from December 2013, data from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® shows. Monthly gains in the South and Northeast were offset by declines in the West and Midwest.

“Ongoing disruptive weather patterns in much of the U.S. inhibited home shopping,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Limited inventory also is playing a role, especially in the West, while credit remains tight and affordability isn’t as favorable as it was a year ago.”

Existing-home sales are expected to be weak in the first quarter, but home prices will rise because many markets have tilted in favor of sellers. “Increasing new home construction can quickly solve two problems, producing more inventory and taming price growth,” Yun said.

The pace of home sales should pick up in the middle part of the year, he added.

Total existing-home sales are projected to top 5 million in 2014, slightly below the volume recorded last year. The national median existing-home price is forecast to grow in the range of 5%-6% this year.

Regional Pending Home Sales

Region Jan. 2014 Compared with Jan. 2013
Northeast Up 2.3% Down 5.3%
South Up 3.5% Down 5.5%
Midwest Down 2.5% Down 9.3%
West Down 4.8% Down 17.5%

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