NAR released a summary of pending home sales data showing that March’s pending home sales pace dropped 20.8% last month and fell 16.3% from a year ago.

Bar chart: Pending Home Sales Index March 2019 to March 2020

Pending sales represent homes that have a signed contract to purchase on them but have yet to close. They tend to lead Existing-Home Sales data by 1 to 2 months.

All four regions showed double-digit declines from a year. The West had the biggest decline in contract signings of 21.5% followed by the South with a drop of 17.8%. The Midwest fell 12.4% while the Northeast had the smallest decline of 11.0%.

From last month, all four regions showed drops in contract signings. The West had the biggest dip of 26.8% followed by the Midwest with a decline of 22.0%. The South fell 19.5% followed by the Northeast with the smallest drop in signings of 14.5%.

The U.S. pending home sales index level for the month was 88.2. The last time the index fell below 88.2 was in May 2011 when the index was 87.7.

Bar chart: March U.S. and Regional Pending Sales March 2020 and March 2019

March’s decline brings the pending index below the 100-level mark after fifteen consecutive months of increases.

The 100 level is based on a 2001 benchmark and is consistent with a healthy market and existing-home sales above the 5 million mark.