Washington (AP) — Pending home sales rose in May for the fourth straight month, spurred by low prices and a first-time homebuyers tax credit, fresh evidence that the housing sector may be recovering.
The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its seasonally adjusted index of pending sales increased by 0.1 percent in May to 0.7. Analysts expected no change, according to Thomson Reuters.
While the increase was small, it followed a 7.1 percent jump in the index in April.
“The pronounced increase in April and the fact that May sustained this rise does indicate that actual existing home sales are poised to rise in the coming month or two,” according to information attributed to Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist for economic forecasting firm MFR Inc., in a note to clients.
The index, which tracks signed contracts to purchase previously occupied homes, is considered a barometer for future home sales. Typically there is a one- to two- month lag between a sales contract and a completed deal.
The index is now 6.7 percent higher than in May 2008, when it was 85. The last time it increased for four straight months was in October 2004, the NAR said.
Other recent housing indicators have been mixed. The Realtors said last week that completed home sales rose 2.4 percent from April to May, the third month-to-month increase this year.
But new home sales dipped 0.6 percent in May.
Separately, the volume of mortgage applications to purchase a home is effectively flat over the past four weeks, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Tuesday.
Still, low home prices and an $8,000 first-time homebuyers’ tax credit, included in the Obama administration’s stimulus package, are spurring greater interest among home buyers, the Realtors said.
On a regional basis, the pending home sales index rose 3.1 percent to 80.9 in the Northeast while also increasing 2.2 percent to 96.9 in the West. The index dropped 1.3 percent to 89.2 in the Midwest and fell 1.7 percent to 92.6 in the South.