With very few homes for sale, the market is EXTREMELY challenging

Everybody is frustrated.  Buyers write offer after offer after multiple instances where they did not have the “winning bid.”  Many wonder if they will ever be able to secure a home.  Frustrating. REALTORS® representing buyers have to work ten times harder than a normal, balanced market, showing every home that appears on the market, analyzing the data and writing offers that are one of 20 submitted.  Frustrating. REALTORS representing sel- lers have to keep their clients from getting too far ahead of themselves and grossly overpricing their homes.  Frustrating.

What is going on?  Quite simply demand, the number of homes placed into escrow in the past month, is about equal to the number of homes on the market. The chart below illustrates the issue.  When supply, the housing inventory, is much larger than demand, it takes a lot longer to sell a home.  As they get further apart, it becomes much easier to purchase.  Take a look back in mid-2007 when there were close to 18,000 homes on the market with demand at about 1,200 homes.  Buyers had their choice of homes and it there was no competition.  Last year at this time, the active inventory sat at 7,597 homes and demand was at 3,569.  The lines were much closer, but the difference was still 4,028 homes.  Today, the active listing inventory sits at 3,272 homes and demand is at 2,887, that is a difference of only 385 homes. The last time this occurred in Orange County dates back to 2005.

Demand is much less today than back in 2005 when there were 4,549 pending sales in a month.  But, back then there were 5,146 homes on the market, a lot more than today.  Since demand is based upon the number of recent escrows, it is currently heavily muted because there are simply not enough homes that have entered the fray.  If there was a surge in the inventory tomorrow, there would be a surge in demand as well. There are throngs of buyers waiting in the wings for a fresh supply of homes.

This market will remain extremely frustrating until the supply of homes increases.  It appears as if that is not going to happen soon and the tight inventory will remain a major issue in 2013 and a stumbling block for many buyers to successfully purchase.  The tight inventory will also encourage homeowners to place their homes on the market and aggressively pursue the market by pricing their homes well above the last comparable pending or closed sale.  Unfortunately, many will drastically overprice their homes and they will sit on the market and procure no offers.  Buyers are willing to pay more for a home, but are not willing to absurdly overpay. 

Pricing a home is a delicate balancing act that requires a homeowner to carefully analyze the local market and the rate of appreciation.  Remember, homes may increase in value by as much as 10% in a year, but not in a month.  Carefully selecting a REALTOR® is a must.  Finding one that knows the local data and market dynamics is essential to success.  Hiring somebody solely based upon a projected sales price is foolish.  Instead, look for somebody that understands the market the best and has a strong command of the data.

Active Inventory:  The inventory remained the same.

The inventory started the year at the lowest level since tracking the active listing inventory back in 2004.  Since then the inventory has only added an additional 111 homes.  In the past two weeks it actually dropped by 4 homes and now sits at 3,272 homes.  The inventory sits at an unprecedented anemic level.  For proper perspective, just ask any buyer who has seen the few available homes and written several offers to no avail.  They will tell you how they are watching the market like a hawk, ready to pounce on the next home that hits the market that closely matches their parameters.  The only problem, when there are this few homes, too many other buyers are doing the same thing. 
So far this year, there have been 17% fewer homes placed on the market compared to last year, which represents 918 homes.  The buyer masses waiting in the wings would appreciate an additional 900-plus homes on the market.  The anemic levels are here to stay for the foreseeable future.  Last year at this time there were 7,597 homes on the market, 4,325 more than today.

Demand:  Demand continued to rise.

In the past two weeks, despite very few homes entering the market, demand increased by 11%, or 291 pending sales, and now totals 2,887.  It has grown by 33% in the past month, or 715 pending sales.  Compared to last year at this time, there are 682 fewer pending sales today.  In 2012, the market was sizzling forward at a breathtaking speed, fueled by a much larger inventory.  Today’s demand is strongly dependent on the inventory.  As soon as the inventory increases, demand will increase.  Until then, you can expect continued, subdued, muted demand.

The Distressed Market: The distressed inventory dropped by 11 homes, a 3% drop.

The distressed inventory continues to drop, shedding an additional 11 homes, which amazingly represents 3% of all foreclosures and shorts sales on the market.  There are 339 distressed homes within the active listing inventory, just 10% of the total active listing inventory.  There have not been this few distressed listings since April 2007, nearly six years ago. 

In the past two weeks, the foreclosure inventory increased by 24 homes, totaling 117, and has an expected market time of 25 days. The short sale inventory decreased by 35 homes in the past two weeks, totaling 222, and has an expected market time of 11 days.  Short sales continue to be the hottest segment of the Orange County housing market today.

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