The National Association of Realtors (NAR) released their latest Existing Homes Sales Report last Friday. The year-over-year comparison of overall sales did not look very appealing. NAR itself called the sales numbers “subdued”. Other media sources used stronger terminology.
There is no doubt that home sales were lower this February (4.60 million) than last February (4.95 million). However, a closer look at the report gives us some evidence as to why that is. Last year, of the 4.95M homes that were sold, 25% were distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales). This February, only 16% of sales were made up of distressed properties!
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Well, if we do the math, we can see that the annualized number of non-distressed properties sold which was revealed in the latest report (3,864,000) was actually greater than the annualized number of non-distressed properties sold that was reported last year (3,712,500). As we sell-off the ‘shadow inventory’ of distressed properties, there will be less homes from which a potential buyer can choose. That will impact sales.
As proof of this point, we can look at the months’ supply of housing inventory available for purchase. In a normal market, a six month supply would be optimum. However, we haven’t reached a six month supply once in over 18 months. This shortage of inventory is the main reason sales are down.
THE GOOD NEWS
As prices continue to rise, more and more homeowners will be freed from the shackles of negative or limited equity. This combined with an improving economy will allow homeowners to again feel confident that they can sell their homes and move on with their future plans. We are already starting to see increases in listings coming onto the market (unsold inventory is 5.3 percent above a year ago). Once housing inventory reaches normal levels (a 6 months’ supply) we will again see home sales begin to increase. Do not let the numbers trick you!