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October 29, 2019

Pending home sales rise 1.5% in September, thanks to lower mortgage rates

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Pending home sales, which are measured by signed contracts to buy existing homes, rose 1.5% in September compared with August, according to the National Association of Realtors.

That was the second straight month of gains. Sales were 3.9% higher than September 2018. The gains, however, were stronger in some regions than in others.

Sales in the Northeast fell 0.4% for the month and were just 1.3% higher annually. In the Midwest, sales increased a much stronger 3.1% monthly and 2.7% annually. In the South, pending sales increased 2.6% monthly and were 5.7% higher annually. In the West sales declined 1.3% monthly but were 3.4% higher compared with September 2018.

Lower mortgage rates throughout the summer helped boost pending sales, although rates did start to rise again slightly in September. The average rate on the 30-year fixed fell below 4% in June and has hovered between 3.5 and 4% since then.

"Even though home prices are rising faster than incomes, national buying power has increased by 6% because of better interest rates," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors. "Furthermore, we've seen increased foot traffic as more buyers are evidently eagerly searching to become homeowners."

Price gains accelerated nationally in August, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Index. Some of the nation's largest cities, however, where prices are overheated, saw those gains slip.

"I think moving forward, the housing market is showing signs of strength," said Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin. "We probably won't see like double digit price growth, but we'll see a more sustainable amount of price growth, and the big problem is still lack of supply, that's why pricing will still rise because there just aren't enough homes out there for people who want them."

Closed sales of existing homes in September, which were the result of contracts signed in July and August, when interest rates were lower, fell unexpectedly after two months of gains. Realtors blamed that squarely on overheated prices and the very low supply of homes for sale.

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