The National Association of Realtors' leading indicator of future home sales fell in December to the lowest level since 2011 as severe winter weather kept potential homebuyers indoors.
NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun blamed "unusually disruptive weather across large stretches of the country" for the nearly 9% drop in the Realtors' pending home sales index from November.
The index tracks the number of contacts signed during the month that are likely to become actual sales in a month or two.
While the pending sales index has been trending down since May, NAR recently reported that existing home sales rose 2% in December after a 6% decline in the prior month.
Existing home sales totaled 5.1 million in 2013, up 9.2% from the prior year. But NAR economists donít expect much upside in 2014. After two years of a housing recovery, "we think sales are going to be holding even in 2014," said NAR economic issues media manager Walter Molony.
He noted that home buying is constrained by the low inventory of homes for sale and tight credit. In addition, "it remains to be seen how the new mortgage rules play out," Molony said.
NAR also expects slower home price increases in 2014. The median house price was $198,000 in December, up 9.9% from a year ago. "The national median existing home price is expected to rise about 5.4% in 2014," NAR said.