U.S. Real-Estate Sector Awaits COVID-Induced Slowdown, Though Home Sales Rise

The index of pending home sales south of the border increased 2.4% in February following the previous month’s rebound, according to information released Monday by the National Association of Realtors.

The index measures real-estate transactions where a contract was signed but the sale had not yet closed, benchmarked to contract-signing activity in 2001. It serves as an indicator for existing-home sales reports in the coming months.

Now, compared with February 2019, signings were up 9.4% nationally.

On a monthly basis, pending sales were up in every region of the United States with the West seeing the largest gain at 4.6%, followed by the Midwest (4.5%) and the Northeast (2.8%). In the South, contract signings inched up just 0.1%.

Before the coronavirus outbreak hit American shores, the residential real-estate market was in a decent position. While the short supply of homes for sale had put a ceiling on the number of sales that could happen in any given month, there was an excess amount of demand in the market. In particular, the low interest rate environment that had prevailed since last summer was keeping sales volumes elevated, as it helped make buying a home more affordable.

The question now for the market is how much the COVID-19 pandemic will hurt the country’s economy and real-estate market.