Just when it seemed that only one more negative housing report would be enough to rev up the bandwagon for a new federal homebuyer tax credit, today’s pending home sales index for August baffled prognosticators and restored hope the no more government stimulus would be needed to stabilize housing markets.
Contracts on homes signed in August rose 5.2 percent over July instead of falling 1 percent, as forecast by 37 economists in a Bloomberg News survey.
Pending sales are still 19.1 percent below July 2009 when the index was 98.1. The national index had fallen 29.9 percent in May and another 2.8 percent in June. The data reflects contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.
“Home sales will remain soft in the months ahead, but improved affordability conditions should help with a recovery,” said NAR’s Lawrence Yun. “But the recovery looks to be a long process. Home buyers over the past year got a great deal, and buyers for the balance of this year have an edge over sellers. For those who bought at or near the peak several years ago, particularly in markets experiencing big bubbles, it may take over a decade to fully recover lost equity.”
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan created turmoil in the real estate industry when he said on CNN Sunday that a restoration of the homebuyer tax credit is “not off the table” and that it is “too soon to say” whether the administration’s credit tax credit, which expired April 30, will be revived.
Donovan’s remarks set off a fierce debate within the real estate industry. Despite the record-setting 27 percent fall in July home sales, the idea of bringing back the credit is surprisingly controversial among real estate professionals. Opinion clearly has changed from the near-unanimous support the credit enjoyed when it was renewed and expanded in February.