The National Association of Realtors' Pending Home Sales Index increased 0.5% to 104.6 in September from 104.1 in August, the group reported Thursday. However, year-over-year, contract signings dropped 1.0%, the ninth straight month of annual decreases.

Despite recent rebounds in the U.S. homeownership rate, minority home buyers continue to struggle to recover from the foreclosure crisis.
Courtesy Adobe Stock/Sean Locke

The PHSI in the Northeast dropped 0.4% to 92.3 in September, and is now 2.7% below a year ago. In the Midwest, the index rose 1.2% to 102.4 in September and is 1.1% lower than September 2017. Pending home sales in the South fell 1.4% to an index of 119.6 in September, 3.3% higher than a year ago. The index in the West increased 4.5% in September to 93.1 and plunged 7.4% below a year ago.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said that even though we are still seeing year-over-year declines, the latest monthly increase is a good, stabilizing trend. “This shows that buyers are out there on the sidelines, waiting to jump in once more inventory becomes available and the price is right,” he said.

Yun continues to point to the lack of inventory of moderately priced homes and affordability as factors restraining the housing market but when viewed through the lens of the last few decades, the current affordability climate is still favorable. “When compared to the year 2000, when the housing market was considered very healthy, and home sales figures were roughly equivalent and the affordability conditions were much lower compared to now. So even though affordability has been falling recently, the demand for housing should remain steady.”

While the economy, is thriving it has yet to have a substantial impact on the real estate market. However, Yun believes that may be about to change. “The general condition of the economy is excellent, it simply has not lifted home sales this year,” said Yun. “Home prices are still rising, so people who are purchasing are still seeing wealth gains.”

Yun pointed to year-over-year increases in active listings from data at® to illustrate a potential rise in inventory. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo., Columbus, Ohio, Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif., and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. saw the largest increase in active listings in September compared to a year ago.

With rising mortgage rates and high prices, conversations about the possible benefits of renting over buying have begun to pop up; however, Yun believes that homeownership is still the path to long-term financial health. “Excluding periods of subprime lending, homeownership has consistently lead to wealth gains,” said Yun. “If people are willing to purchase a home within their budget, they will likely continue to accumulate equity.”