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Contracts to buy homes decrease nationally

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Fewer Americans signed contracts to buy homes in June, as the real estate market appears to have cooled off this summer.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index slipped 1.1 percent, to 102.7, last month. The index remains 7.3 percent below its level a year ago.

Sales have been slowed by a mix of meager wage growth, rising home prices, and mortgage rates that rose steadily through the end of last year.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases. A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a contract and a completed sale.

Signed contracts in June fell in the Northeast and South. They rose slightly in the Midwest and West. Pending sales in all four U.S. regions are below last year's pace.

IBJ reported July 16 that Indianapolis-area home-sale agreements fell 14.9 percent in June compared with the same month of 2013.

Home sales had been improving through the middle of 2013, only to stumble over the past 12 months. Buying has decelerated despite a recent decline in mortgage rates and home prices increasing at a slower rate than last year.

Sales were initially disrupted by harsh winter weather, but the summer slowdown suggests that financial pressures are now keeping would-be buyers on the sidelines.

"The latest decline raises questions about the housing market strength after the weather-related rebound is behind us," said Yelena Shulyatyeva, an analyst at BNP Paribas. "Housing will remain an area of concern" for Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

New home sales fell 8.1 percent last month, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 406,000, the Commerce Department said last week.

The Realtors recently reported that sales of existing homes increased 2.6 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million homes. It marked the first time that sales have been above the 5 million-mark since October, yet the pace of buying remained below last year's level of 5.1 million.

Economists generally consider annual home sales of 5.5 million to be consistent with a healthy housing market.

Still, there are indications that sales could pick up.

Along with the arrival of spring, average mortgage rates have dropped to 4.13 percent, down from a 52-week high of 4.58 percent, according to Freddie Mac.

The rate of average price gains has slowed to 4.3 percent year-over-year, according to the Realtors. That's down from gains in the double digits. But wage growth has barely kept pace with inflation, eating into how much income people have to spend and save for down payments.

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  1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

  2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

  3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

  4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

  5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.

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