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Pending home sales fall to second-lowest level on record

By Augusta Saraiva | Bloomberg

US pending home sales fell for a sixth month in November to the second-lowest on record as higher borrowing costs and an uncertain economic outlook kept many potential buyers out of the market.

The National Association of Realtors index of contract signings to purchase previously owned homes decreased 4% last month to 73.9, the lowest outside of the pandemic in data back to 2001, according to a release Wednesday. The drop was worse than all estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

The Federal Reserve’s aggressive tightening campaign to cool inflation has had an outsize impact on the housing market in 2022. With borrowing costs roughly double where they were at the start of the year, home sales, and therefore prices, have been declining for months.

Consumers rate current home-buying conditions as the worst since the early 1980s, according to a survey by the University of Michigan. That said, mortgage rates have been retreating after spiking to a two-decade high earlier this year.

“There are approximately two months of lag time between mortgage rates and home sales,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement. “With mortgage rates falling throughout December, home-buying activity should inevitably rebound in the coming months and help economic growth.”

Contract signings were down nearly 39% in November from a year ago on an unadjusted basis. Pending sales fell in all four regions in the month, led by the Northeast and Midwest.

Pending home sales are often looked to as a leading indicator of existing-home purchases as properties typically go under contract a month or two before they’re sold. The index is based on a sample that covers about 40% of multiple listing service data each month.

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