From the WSJ:
New data on home sales released Wednesday offer few signs suggesting a breakout for the U.S. housing market, but they also offered little proof of a renewed slowdown.
The number of contracts signed to buy previously owned homes rose to the third-highest level of the year in November, the latest sign of how housing demand firmed up in the second half of 2014 after a sluggish start.
The National Association of Realtors said its index measuring pending home sales, reflecting sales that have gone into contract but haven’t yet closed, rose 0.8% from October and 4.1% from a year earlier on a seasonally adjusted basis. That represents the largest year-over-year gain for the index since August 2013.
The Realtors’ index showed that contract activity picked up in the Northeast, South and West in November but fell 0.4% in the Midwest. Pending sales in the South hit their highest level since July 2013, and the seasonally adjusted index for that region has been higher in only three other months since the housing bust began in 2007.
After a two-year rebound, housing demand faltered in the middle of 2013 amid inventory shortages, rising prices and a sudden increase in mortgage rates. Demand stayed soft in early 2014, during a particularly cold winter, but improved in the summer, a period during which mortgage rates floated down.
“The market overpriced itself this year, and buyers are very price sensitive right now,” said Glenn Kelman, chief executive of real-estate brokerage Redfin.