What’s behind falling housing inventories?
Home prices are increasing across the country as the number of homes for-sale continues to fall. But at a time when buyer demand is picking up, why is inventory still so low?
Inventories fell to 1.82 million at the end of last year, a 21.6 percent drop from one year earlier, the National Association of Realtors® reports.
The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted several reasons behind the dropping inventories, including:
• Sellers hesitant to sell: About 22 percent of homeowners with a mortgage remain underwater, owing more than their home is currently worth. These homeowners don’t tend to sell unless a life-changing event occurs because they don’t want to take a loss on the sale. CoreLogic data finds constrained inventories in areas with the highest number of underwater borrowers.
• Not enough equity to trade up: Homeowners often rely on equity from their current home to make a downpayment on the next home. With fewer homeowners seeing equity, they may not have enough money to move into a pricier home – a constraint on the would-be “trade up” buyer.
• Investors continue to snatch up properties: Investors still snap up properties, but they’ve changed their strategy, which also constrains inventories. Now they’re holding onto properties and turning them into rentals instead of rehabbing and flipping them for profit. The result: fewer homes on the market.
• Banks slowing down foreclosures: Banks have new rules to meet with the foreclosure process, and it’s causing them to move at a slower pace. Banks also are showing a preference for short sales and loan modifications, which curbs the number of foreclosed homes on the market.
• Builders doing less building: Housing starts were at record lows from 2009 through 2011, so there’s less inventory added to the market. A rebound in the new-home market has only recently started to occur.
Source: “Six Reasons Housing Inventory Keeps Declining,” The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 22, 2013)
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