By MATT OTT
AP Business Writer
SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — The number of Americans signing contracts to buy homes rebounded by a record 44.3% in May after a record-breaking decline the previous month, as effects of the coronavirus pandemic sidelined both buyers and sellers.
The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its index of pending sales rose to 99.6 in May, the highest month-over-month gain in the index since since its inception in January 2001. The pending home sales index plunged 21.8% from March to April to a level of 69.
The contract signings — a measure of finished purchases over the next two months — have fallen 5.1% over the past year, but Monday’s better-than-expected pending home sales data offers some optimism for the housing market, which was severely hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Sales of both existing and new homes fell sharply during the usual spring-selling season as communities were locked down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
However, last week the government reported that sales of new homes rose a surprisingly strong 16.6% in May as major parts of the country reopened.
“The outlook has significantly improved, as new home sales are expected to be higher this year than last, and annual existing-home sales are now projected to be down by less than 10% – even after missing the spring buying season due to the pandemic lockdown,” said NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun.
All four U.S. regions saw massive increases in signed contracts on a month-over-month basis after declines across the board in April.