Pending home sales reached a record high for December last month as the unseasonable housing surge continued in markets across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pending sales were up 21.4% year over year in December, reaching the highest reading for a December on the National Association of REALTORS®’ Pending Home Sales Index. All major regions of the U.S. recorded double-digit increases annually.
However, the index—a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings—did drop slightly, by three-tenths of a percentage point, in December compared to November. December’s index reading was 125.5. (An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.) The slight month-over-month decline was blamed on fewer contract signings in the Midwest, NAR said. In other regions, contract signings saw an uptick or stayed flat in December.
Housing shortages continue to press on the housing market. “Pending home sales contracts have dipped during recent months, but I would attribute that to having too few homes for sale,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “There is a high demand for housing and a great number of would-be buyers, and therefore sales should rise with more new listings. This elevated demand without a significant boost in supply has caused home prices to increase and we can expect further upward pressure on prices for the foreseeable future.”
Yun projects that 2021 will see strong economic growth, supported by low mortgage rates and fiscal stimulus, that could help increase existing-home sales. He predicts the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to stay near record lows, averaging 3%. He added that these low mortgage rates likely will help bolster existing-home sales to 6.49 million this year, which would be a 15% increase over the total 5.64 million sales in 2020.