REALTORS® CONFIDENCE INDEXEvery month, NAR surveys “over 50,000 real estate practitioners about their expectations for home sales, prices and market conditions.” This month, the index showed (again) that homebuying demand continued to outpace the supply of homes available in January. The map below illustrates buyer demand broken down by state (the darker your state, the stronger demand there is). In addition to revealing high demand, the index also shows that compared to conditions in the same month last year, seller traffic conditions were ‘weak’ in 22 states, ‘stable’ in 25 states, and ‘strong’ in only 4 states (Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota & Utah). Takeaway: Demand for housing continues to be strong but supply is struggling to keep up, and this trend is likely to continue throughout 2018.
THE EXISTING HOME SALES REPORTThe 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.
“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.