Pending Home Sales Plummet

It was expected: home sales would drop following the April end of the Homebuyer Tax Credit program. What wasn’t expected, and what has the industry reeling, is the depth of the drop-off. Pending home sales –meaning home sales that are under contract but are not yet closed- fell off 30% in May from its April mark. This drop, to put it in perspective, is the largest single-month drop ever recorded, and to make it even more significant, was a 15.9% decrease for the same month a year earlier.

Some would call this drop a falling off a cliff. A free-fall of painful proportions. And though it wasn’t fully unexpected, it still stings.

What it means

Does this level of drop-off mean anything to the long-term health or growth of the housing industry? The debate can now be opened up. Many factors came to pass in April, including the Federal government no longer buying up troubled assets, the homebuyer credit coming to an end, and interest rates beginning their rise up from historically low levels.

Another factor that is contributing to the drop-off is the slow economic recovery in this country. Millions of people remain out of work and millions more have been laid off in recent months. It was the perfect compilation of factors that would –each, individually- have led to a decrease in the number of pending home sales in May, regardless of other factors. Yet taken together as a whole, all aggregate factors combined to offer the struggling real estate market the worst single month drop in its history. All this is according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

How to handle the news

It may seem bleak for many of the nation’s realtors, one thing that can be taken away from this abysmal report is that perhaps the worst is now behind us. News has surfaced that President Obama is considering extending the homebuyer tax credit through September, the government is indicating that growth is steady, which means employers will soon be hiring once again, and the Wall Street Reform bill that is expected to pass and be signed into law can open up lending within many of the nation’s leading financial institutions.

As realtors or mortgage brokers or lenders, May’s numbers are certainly eye-opening, even depressing, but it’s up to each of us to look beyond the number, beyond the factors that led to that drop-off, and see the signs of recovery that surround us every day.

Is the worst truly behind us?

It is certainly a challenge to remain positive and optimistic as the weeks roll into months and the months stretch out into years, but it is incumbent upon us to continue to think positively, to shrug off the bad, staggering news, and look for the silver linings, wherever they may be hiding. The alternative is to continue to be morose and downtrodden about the economic climate around us, and when that happens, it becomes exceedingly challenging to get other people, most importantly potential homebuyers, to feel positive about the future.

No one truly knows what lies around the next corner of this recession. Depending on whom you ask, you will receive a different answer. And it always seems to be politically motivated. Don’t look to Washington for the answers; look to your own community. Emphasize the positives that have happened over the past year, or the past month, or the past week.

The only way to turn tragically bad news, such as the May pending home sales report, into positive indications is on a local, community-based level and within every community, there are beacons of light shining everywhere; you just need to look harder.

About the author: David is the Founder and CEO of, an approved education provider for The Conference of State Bank Supervisors and The National Mortgage Licensing Systems’ (NMLS) required pre-licensing education and continuing education.

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