Housing Inventory Lowest Since 2007, But Median Price Unchanged

November 14, 2012 No Comments »
Housing Inventory Lowest Since 2007, But Median Price Unchanged

A while back, I mentioned that it appeared as if we were running out of homes for sale, despite being just years (or days) out of the housing crisis.

I was being somewhat facetious, but it’s true that there are very few homes for sale these days, at least in areas where people want to buy.

A new report from Realtor.com released today revealed that there were just 1.76 million single-family homes, townhouses, condos, and co-ops listed for sale in October nationwide.

That number is down 2.58% from September and 17.0% from a year ago, displaying just how bad things have become for would-be homebuyers.

Total listings in October were also 40% below the 3.1 million units for sale back in September 2007, when Realtor.com began tracking associated housing markets.

On a year-over-year basis, for-sale inventory declined in 141 of the 146 markets covered by Realtor.com. Good luck finding a house!

Median Price Unchanged

median

Despite this drop in inventory, the median list price in October was $189,900, unchanged from a year ago (it dropped 0.83% month-over-month).

It has fallen for three straight months, and likely won’t see any improvement during the holiday season, so we could be in for a long winter.

So even though there are far fewer homes for sale, demand hasn’t won over supply, though it may prevent further home price declines. Phew.

Still, it doesn’t bode well for a recovery if home prices can’t even steady themselves with record low rates on hand and limited supply.

Recovery Uneven

List prices increased in 71 markets, remained unchanged in 31 markets, and dropped in 44 markets.

Median prices are up in many hard-hit regions, such as Phoenix, Atlanta, Seattle, Las Vegas, and much of California.

The median price in Vegas in October was 12.41% above year-ago levels, thanks to a 24.4% drop in housing inventory.

[Foreclosure resales hit five year low.]

But median prices are down in many areas of the country that didn’t experience a run-up in prices during the boom, namely the Midwestern “rust belt.”

In other words, continued economic uncertainty is killing demand and hurting home prices in areas that aren’t highly sought after.

And with the impending fiscal cliff, you have to wonder if this recovery really has any legs.

Still, investors seem to be scooping up properties and everyone I know wants a house; they just can’t seem to find one for sale.

So at minimum, that should buffer home prices, even if the economy takes another turn for the worse.

Two-Year Window to Buy

While that all sounds pretty grim, Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity firm, has purchased about 10,000 foreclosed properties in the United States this year, according to a Bloomberg report.

The price tag so far is a mere $1.5 billion, with about $100 million in weekly home purchases.

The company has been scooping up properties on the cheap, with an average purchase price of $150,000, many of which were valued at $300,000 during the boom.

Blackstone plans to renovate the homes and rent them out via property management companies.

But Blackstone Global Head of Real Estate Jonathan Gray believes there are only another two to three years of buying opportunities before the market becomes less attractive from an investment standpoint.

Clearly this presents a bit of a quandary, seeing that everyday buyers can’t even find a suitable property, thanks in part to these vulture investors coming in and paying with cash.

Read more: Should you buy a house now or wait?

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