The most important data revealed in the report was not sales but was instead the inventory of homes for sale (supply). The report explained:
Total housing inventory rose 4.1% from December to 1.52 million homes available for sale.
Unsold inventory is 9.5% lower than a year ago, marking the 32nd consecutive month with year-over-year declines.
This represents a 3.4-month supply at the current sales pace.
According to Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR:
“Another month of solid price gains underlines this ongoing trend of strong demand and weak supply. The underproduction of single-family homes over the last decade has played a predominant role in the current inventory crisis that is weighing on affordability.”
In real estate, there is a guideline that often applies; when there is less than a 6-month supply of inventory available, we are in a seller’s market and we will see appreciation. Between 6-7 months is a neutral market, where prices will increase at the rate of inflation. More than a 7-month supply means we are in a buyer’s market and should expect depreciation in home values.
As we mentioned before, there is currently a 3.4-month supply, and houses are going under contract fast. The Existing Home Sales Report shows that 43% of properties were on the market for less than a month when sold.
In January, properties sold nationally were typically on the market for 42 days. As Yun notes, this will continue unless more listings come to the market.
“While the good news is that Realtors in most areas are saying buyer traffic is even stronger than the beginning of last year, sales failed to follow course and far lagged last January’s pace. It’s very clear that too many markets right now are becoming less affordable and desperately need more new listings to calm the speedy price growth.”
Takeaway: Inventory of homes for sale is still well below the 6-month supply needed for a normal market and supply will ‘fail to catch up with demand’ if a ‘sizable’ supply does not enter the market.