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January marked the fifth straight month that the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) has reported a decline in its Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI). The index, based on newly signed contracts for the purchase of existing homes, was down 2.8 percent from its December level. The index in January was at 122.8 compared to 125.5 in December and has lost 10 points since August. Still, pending sales were up 13 percent compared to a year earlier. This January's PHSI was, in fact, the highest for any January on record.
New home sales continued the turnaround, started in December, that ended three straight months of slowing sales. The U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development said newly constructed homes were sold in January at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 923,000 units. This is an increase of 4.3 percent compared to the upwardly revised (from 842,000) rate of 885,000 in December and 19.3 percent above the estimate of 774,000 units in January 2020. Analysts polled by Econoday had projected sales to be flat compared to the December estimate, in a range of 809,000 to 905,000 units. Their consensus was 855,000 annualized sales.
Loan performance continued to improve in January although the number of delinquencies remains significantly elevated from pre-pandemic levels. Black Knight's first look at the month's loan performance data has both good news and some that is disquieting. The good news is a 121,000-loan decline in the number of loans that are 30 or more days past due but not in foreclosure when compared to the prior month. This reduced the national delinquency rate to 5.85 percent, the first time the rate has been under 6 percent since the pandemic hit in March 2020. The number of seriously delinquent loans, those 90 or more days past due but not in foreclosure, was reduced by 56,000 loans. Black Knight includes loans that are in active forbearance plans in its delinquency numbers if they are non-current.