Where is the inventory? One of the factors for the decrease in December home sales was lack of inventory. The National Association of Realtors reported a 21.6 percent drop from one year earlier.
A recent article by the Wall Street Journal 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 down payment on the next home. 10 million homeowners have less then 20% equity in their 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. The original strategy was to purchase the home and flip it. Now they are holding onto properties and turning them into rentals. 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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