Pending Home Sales Increased 2.5% in December, Ending Six-Month Slide

This article was originally written by Doug Short. From 2016-2022, it was improved upon and updated by Jill Mislinski. Starting in January 2023, AP Charts pages will be maintained by Jennifer Nash at Advisor Perspectives/VettaFi.


The National Association of Realtors released the December data for its pending home sales index. According to the National Association of Realtors®, "Pending home sales increased in December for the first time since May 2022 — following six consecutive months of declines."

WASHINGTON (January 27, 2023) – Pending home sales increased in December for the first time since May 2022 — following six consecutive months of declines — according to the National Association of Realtors®. The Northeast and Midwest recorded month-over-month reductions, while the South and West posted monthly gains. All four U.S. regions saw year-over-year decreases in transactions, with the West experiencing the largest decline at 37.5%.

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI)* — a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings — improved 2.5% to 76.9 in December. Year-over-year, pending transactions dropped by 33.8%. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

“This recent low point in home sales activity is likely over,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Mortgage rates are the dominant factor driving home sales, and recent declines in rates are clearly helping to stabilize the market.” (more here)

The chart below gives us a snapshot of the index since 2001. The MoM came in at 2.5%, up from a -2.6% decrease last month. Investing.com had forecast a decrease of 0.9%.

Pending Home Sales

Over this time frame, the US population has grown by 17.8%. For a better look at the underlying trend, here is an overlay with the nominal index and the population-adjusted variant. The focus is pending home sales growth since 2001.

Pending Home Sales Growth

The above chart shows the percent off turn-of-the-century values. The index for the most recent month is currently 42% below its all-time high. The population-adjusted index is 46% off its high.

Pending versus existing home sales

The NAR explained that "because a home goes under contract a month or two before it is sold, the Pending Home Sales Index generally leads Existing-Home Sales by a month or two." Here is a growth overlay of the two series. The general correlation, as expected, is close. And a close look at the numbers supports the NAR's assessment that their pending sales series is a leading index.