Housing Inventory Hit Record Lows in 2020. Will This Change in 2021?

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March 16th, 2021 – Housing inventory declined 39.6% on a national level in 2020, making 2020 the lowest housing inventory year on record, according to Realtor.com. Adding to the record-breaking low inventory this past year has been increased buyer demand — although, saying “increased demand” is an understatement. Zillow (NASDAQ: ZG) (NASDAQ: Z) calls the persistent demand for homes we’ve seen in 2020 “insatiable.”

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Low inventory and high demand lead, of course, to increased housing prices; in this case a 13.4% increase, which translates to a national median of $340,000 as of December 2020. But where are we headed in 2021?

Some background: sellers

To understand 2021, let’s first look at the reasons the 2020 market has been, shall we say, unique. Part of the reason for low inventory in 2020 was seller uncertainty. And not uncertainty about whether homeowners can sell; the uncertainty comes from what they’ll do after they sell.

Because of this insatiable demand for housing, homeowners are torn on what to do. On one hand, they can get top dollar for their home (assuming it’s in reasonable condition) if they list now, and quickly too, as houses aren’t staying on the market long. But many are afraid they might not get another house they can afford in this market. So homeowners are generally holding on to what they have, slightly more now than last year, further decreasing inventory.

As far as foreclosures: While more are expected to happen in 2021 due to people losing their jobs from the coronavirus pandemic, depending on how the new administration reacts regarding stimulus and forbearance, there might not be the numbers of foreclosures as there normally might otherwise be, further lessening supply.

Some background: buyers

Another reason for low inventory is increased motivation of buyers. There are several reasons for increased buyer demand.

1. Record low mortgage rates: Low mortgage rates have been causing people on the fence to take a stand and buy already.

2. Millennials age up: This group of 24- to 39-year olds who have been putting off homebuying longer than past generations is finally settling down.

3. The coronavirus pandemic (a reason for practically everything in 2020): People who were content as renters in urban cities started leaving for social distancing reasons. Their destination: the suburbs and exurbs, particularly since working from home has become a thing — not to mention as cities locked down, there was nothing much to do in them anymore.

What to expect in 2021

The real estate market always tries to reach equilibrium: the perfect match between sellers and buyers. But that can take time. Because the 2020 market was nowhere near this — instead, a huge sellers’ market — 2021 will be trying to reach equilibrium. So expect to see more of the same until this equilibrium happens: low inventory, high demand, rising prices, and low interest rates.

Inventory

Whenever the supply of new homes on the market is below 6.5 months (a number which represents how long it will take to sell the existing supply), builders become confident to build more homes. As of December 2020, the supply of new homes was 3.3 months — representing a supply so low that builders are not merely confident; they’re downright excited to start building.

Not only is the supply of new homes low, so is the supply of existing homes on the market. Due to high demand, existing homes are also selling fast. As of December 2020, there’s a 2.5-month supply, an all-time low.

So expect to see more housing starts in 2021, but since builders like to get top dollar, don’t expect them to overbuild.

Demand

Demand for houses should remain high in 2021. Low interest rates have a lot to do with this: rates aren’t expected to go much higher than 3% for 2021. Combine that with millennials entering their homebuying years, and demand should remain strong this year.

Prices

The way the market handles low inventory combined with strong demand is with rising prices. This year, prices might rise to the point of keeping many first-time buyers from being able to purchase, as coming up with a down payment could prove to be too big a hurdle. With that said, savings are at historic highs, so many first-time homebuyers, although they don’t have home equity in their arsenal, they do have money in the bank.

Interest rates

There have been no announcements by the Fed of an increase in interest rates anytime soon. If the economy improves due to getting a handle on the coronavirus and a new administration, rates could start to go up from these all-time lows, but since they are hovering around 2.5% at 2021’s start, even if they do rise in 2021, they will still be at historically low.

Are you ready for this spring market? Talk To Tammy, 636.931.9100!

Existing-Home Sales Climb RECORD 20.7%

June 2020, Existing-home sales rebounded at a record pace in June, showing strong signs of a market turnaround after three straight months of sales declines caused by the ongoing pandemic, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Each of the four major regions achieved month-over-month growth, with the West experiencing the greatest sales recovery.

Total existing-home sales,1 https://www.nar.realtor/existing-home-sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, jumped 20.7% from May to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.72 million in June. Sales overall, however, dipped year-over-year, down 11.3% from a year ago (5.32 million in June 2019).

“The sales recovery is strong, as buyers were eager to purchase homes and properties that they had been eyeing during the shutdown,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “This revitalization looks to be sustainable for many months ahead as long as mortgage rates remain low and job gains continue.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in June was $295,300, up 3.5% from June 2019 ($285,400), as prices rose in every region. June’s national price increase marks 100 straight months of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory3 at the end of June totaled 1.57 million units, up 1.3% from May, but still down 18.2% from one year ago (1.92 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 4.0-month supply at the current sales pace, down from both 4.8 months in May and from the 4.3-month figure recorded in June 2019.

Yun explains that significantly low inventory was a problem even before the pandemic and says such circumstances can lead to inflated costs.

“Home prices rose during the lockdown and could rise even further due to heavy buyer competition and a significant shortage of supply.”

Yun’s concerns are underscored in NAR’s recently released 2020 Member Profile, in which Realtors® point to low inventory as being one of the top hindrances for potential buyers.

Properties typically remained on the market for 24 days in June, seasonally down from 26 days in May, and down from 27 days in June 2019. Sixty-two percent of homes sold in June 2020 were on the market for less than a month.

First-time buyers were responsible for 35% of sales in June, up from 34% in May 2020 and about equal to 35% in June 2019. NAR’s 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released in late 20194 – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 33%.

Individual investors or second-home buyers, who account for many cash sales, purchased 9% of homes in June, down from 14% in May 2020 and 10% in June 2019. All-cash sales accounted for 16% of transactions in June, down from 17% in May 2020 and about equal to 16% in June 2019.

Distressed sales5 – foreclosures and short sales – represented 3% of sales in June, about even with May but up from 2% in June 2019.

“It’s inspiring to see Realtors® absorb the shock and unprecedented challenges of the virus-induced shutdowns and bounce back in this manner,” said NAR President Vince Malta, broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco, Calif. “NAR and our 1.4 million members will continue to tirelessly work to facilitate our nation’s economic recovery as we all adjust to this new normal.”

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate(link is external) for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 3.16% in June, down from 3.23% in May. The average commitment rate across all of 2019 was 3.94%.

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales sat at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.28 million in June, up 19.9% from 3.57 million in May, and down 9.9% from one year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $298,600 in June, up 3.5% from June 2019.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 440,000 units in June, up 29.4% from May and down 22.8% from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $262,700 in June, an increase of 1.4% from a year ago.

“Homebuyers considering a move to the suburbs is a growing possibility after a decade of urban downtown revival,” Yun said. “Greater work-from-home options and flexibility will likely remain beyond the virus and any forthcoming vaccine.”

Regional Breakdown

In a complete reversal of the month prior, sales for June increased in every region. Median home prices grew in each of the four major regions from one year ago.

June 2020 existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 4.3%, recording an annual rate of 490,000, a 27.9% decrease from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $332,900, up 3.6% from June 2019.

Existing-home sales increased 11.1% in the Midwest to an annual rate of 1,100,000 in June, down 13.4% from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $236,900, a 3.2% increase from June 2019.

Existing-home sales in the South jumped 26.0% to an annual rate of 2.18 million in June, down 4.0% from the same time one year ago. The median price in the South was $258,500, a 4.4% increase from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West ascended 31.9% to an annual rate of 950,000 in June, a 13.6% decline from a year ago. The median price in the West was $432,600, up 5.4% from June 2019.

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Talk To Tammy, and see what the best options are for you with selling your house or finding the right home. 636-931-9100, Tammy Fadler

REALTORS® Say Market Is in Recovery Phase of Pandemic as Buyers Return

After enduring months of setbacks brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey from the National Association of Realtors® shows that more than nine in 10 of its members believe they are in the process of recovering as many states start to reopen their economies.

NAR’s 2020 Market Recovery Survey polled agents about their respective residential and commercial real estate markets, finding that 92% of respondents stated that a portion of their buyers have either returned to or never left the market. Among those members, 18% reported that their buyers never left the market at all, and 9% said that all of their buyers have already returned to the market. Small towns and rural areas were more likely to report that there had been no pause in buyer activity and were also more likely to report a stronger return of buyers to the market.

“The residential market has seen a swift rebound of activity as numerous states have begun to ease mandatory stay-at-home orders,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Many potential buyers and home sellers were kept at bay in the initial stages of the coronavirus outbreak, but Realtors® nationwide were able to quickly pivot, embracing technology and business practices to ensure the home buying process continued in a safe manner.”

In terms of seller activity, 89% of Realtors® said a share of their clients have either returned to the market or never delisted their property. Roughly one-quarter of respondents, or 24%, indicated that their sellers never left the market. Suburban and urban markets are more likely to have reported fewer sellers returning to the market compared to small and rural markets.

While the housing market as a whole was understandably caught off-guard by the pandemic, the NAR survey found that many members are now prepared should another surge of the coronavirus occur. Thirty-nine percent of those polled said they are at least somewhat prepared for a second wave of the disease, with 19% reporting they are “very prepared.” Moreover, of those who believe there might be a resurgence, 30% said they are more prepared now, as they know what to expect. Twenty-seven percent indicated that they are concerned enough that they have changed their business practices in some form in order to be prepared for another bout of the virus.

Of those who are currently working with buyers, 54% said that their buyers’ timelines to find and purchase a home has remained the same, while 27% report that their clients now express more urgency about buying a home.

Among NAR membership currently working with sellers, two-thirds said that their sellers’ timelines to sell have remained the same. Twenty-three percent reported sellers who feel more urgency to sell their property. Less urgency was cited more frequently in urban areas and in suburban areas or small towns and rural markets.

“A number of potential buyers noted stalled plans due to the pandemic and that has led to more urgency and a pent-up demand to buy,” said Yun. “After being home for months on end – in a home they already wanted to leave – buyers are reminded how much their current home may lack certain desired features or amenities.”

In some cases, respondents reported changes in their buyers’ preferences. Twenty-four percent of Realtors® indicated having buyers who shifted the location of where they intend to buy a house due to the coronavirus. Among those who noted having buyers change their intended location, 47% stated that their buyers prefer to purchase housing in the suburbs, 39% cited rural areas, and 25% cited smaller town markets.

Thirty-five percent of NAR members surveyed said buyers have modified at least one home feature that is important to them because of the coronavirus outbreak. The most common home features cited as increasingly important are home offices, spaces to accommodate family members new to the residence – older adult relatives, newborns or new pets – larger homes with more personal space and bigger yards that would allow for growing foods.

Also, in response to the pandemic, 13% said that homebuyers changed their home type of choice from multi-family to single-family. This shift is highest in urban markets at 16%. Thirty-three percent answered that buyers have adjusted commuting needs since the pandemic began, with 22% less concerned with their commute and 7% wanting to live close to bike trails that connect them to work. Just 5% responded that they now have a greater concern about parking and more concern for a location that affords the ability to drive to work.

On the commercial real estate front, some members indicated that they are contending with hardships, as only 19% of property managers said they have been receiving all rent payments on time, and only 36% of individual landlords have received timely payments.

Seventy-four percent have reported that leases have been terminated or said tenants have needed to delay rent payments, with the greatest shares (56%) happening in non-essential retail establishments, followed by the office sector at 38%. However, grocery stores are faring well, the least cited of the commercial properties at 4%.

“Consumers have been forced to move away from buying in stores and are now doing much more shopping from home,” said Yun. “Unfortunately, this has come at the detriment of commercial property owners, but these circumstances could be an opportunity for growth in the industrial warehouse market, as Americans have become more reliant on home delivery services.”

As economies reopen, 44% of NAR members say they expect the demand for industrial properties to increase, and 35% expect the demand for multi-family properties to increase. In comparison, 72% expect the demand for non-essential retail to decline and 66% said they expect office usage to decrease.

The biggest concern for small businesses, according to 83% of commercial members, is a lack of profitability due to a decrease in customers. A majority of Realtors® also expressed concern with the following: a resurgence of the outbreak forcing another shutdown (66%), protecting the health of employees, (61%) and challenges with implementing social-distancing measures (59%).

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

If you are ready to list your house or need help finding the right home for you and your family, Talk To Tammy 636-931-9100!