This morning the National Association of Realtors released the March data for their Pending Home Sales Index. Here is an excerpt from the latest press release:

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI),* www.nar.realtor/pending-home-sales, a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings, rose 1.9% to 111.3 in March. Year-over-year, contract signings jumped 23.3%, with the difference due in large part to the pandemic-induced lockdown in March 2020. An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.

"The increase in pending sales transactions for the month of March is indicative of high housing demand," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "With mortgage rates still very close to record lows and a solid job recovery underway, demand will likely remain high." (more here)

The chart below gives us a snapshot of the index since 2001. The MoM came in at 1.9%, up from an 11.5% decrease last month. Investing.com had forecast an increase of 5%.

Pending Home Sales

Over this time frame, the US population has grown by 16.6%. For a better look at the underlying trend, here is an overlay with the nominal index and the population-adjusted variant. The focus is pending home sales growth since 2001.

Pending Home Sales Growth

The index for the most recent month is currently 15% below its all-time high. The population-adjusted index is 22% off its high.

Pending versus Existing Home Sales

The NAR explains that "because a home goes under contract a month or two before it is sold, the Pending Home Sales Index generally leads Existing Home Sales by a month or two." Here is a growth overlay of the two series. The general correlation, as expected, is close. And a close look at the numbers supports the NAR's assessment that their pending sales series is a leading index.