Declining Sales, Growing Inventory Continue to Move in Direction of Buyer’s Market
Riding two trends – declining sales and growing inventory – the U.S. housing market continued to transition from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market in February, according to the RE/MAX National Housing Report.
Home sales in the 54-market report have declined year-over-year for seven consecutive months, though February’s downturn of 4.2% was the smallest since the 1.1% drop that started the streak in August 2018. At the same time, inventory grew 5.8% over February of 2018, marking the fifth consecutive month of growth following a decade-long trend of shrinking inventory. The Months Supply of Inventory also grew in February from 3.1 in 2018 to 3.4 this year.
Bucking these trends, the Median Sales Price increased to $240,000, a year-over-year gain of 5.5% and a February record in the 10-year history of the report. That followed January’s upturn of 4.6%.
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Some homeowners bypass the permit process when they remodel their home. They may find the process too expensive or cumbersome. Permitting fees can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars or more. Some homeowners may believe that if they go ahead with a kitchen or bath remodel without a permit, they’ll likely never get caught.
But failing to get a permit could be troublesome when they go to sell the home.
Most states require homeowners to fill out a disclosure statement when they go to sell. In that form, sellers are usually asked if they completed work to the home without a required permit. Lying about it can also backfire—the sellers could be sued later by the new homeowner for making false statements.
“You can personally become liable for work carried out without permits,” writes Bill Gassett, a real estate professional with RE/MAX, REALTORS® in New England, for RISMedia’s Housecall. “Maybe the finished basement built by the previous homeowner with the fancy kitchen that sold the home has to be ripped out, or you’ll have to pay a penalty.”
Also, if there’s any incident that was caused by the lack of permits, the homeowner may face a denial of their insurance claim. If their insurance company finds they didn’t have the required permit, they could deny the claim. Many of these denied insurance claims stem from incidents that involve remodeling projects around electricity, gas, or water that were done without the appropriate permits.
Source: REALTOR® Magazine
The housing market is changing quite a bit from a year ago. The number of homes up for sale is growing, reversing an inventory shortage trend that has plagued many markets over the last few years. The higher inventories are also driving greater price cuts, according to realtor.com®’s February housing report.
About 73,000 more listings are for sale this year compared to last year. Inventories have increased 6 percent year over year, according to realtor.com®’s analysis. The largest jumps in For Sale signs are out West, led by San Jose, Calif. (up 125 percent year over year); Seattle (up 85 percent); San Francisco (up 53 percent); San Diego (up 39 percent); and Portland, Ore. (up 36 percent).
“This is the fifth consecutive month that we’ve seen housing inventory increase, especially in large markets,” says Danielle Hale, realtor.com®’s chief economist. “As is often the case in real estate, the important trends are going on at the local level. We see large markets continue to cool, but some markets still have some strength. Additionally, we still see fewer homes priced under $200,000 on the market, so entry-level buyers won’t see the same availability of options as high-end buyers.”
The median list price rose 7 percent year over year in February to $294,800. But prices are showing signs of cooling. Thirty-nine of the 50 largest housing markets saw an increase in price cuts in February. The largest percentage of price cuts were in Las Vegas (up 19 percent); San Jose (up 9 percent); Phoenix (up 7 percent); San Francisco (up 5 percent); and Dallas (up 4 percent).
Laundry rooms and Energy Star–compliant windows topped the list of what buyers considered the most “essential” or “desirable” features in a home, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ 2019 “What Home Buyers Really Want” report, released at the NAHB International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas this week. Most of the features that new homeowners or aspiring buyers ranked highest related to helping them save in utility costs, add extra storage, and spruce up the outside, said Rose Quint, the NAHB’s assistant vice president of survey research.
The NAHB surveyed nearly 4,000 consumers who either purchased a home within the last three years or plan to buy a home in the next three years to identify their top desires in a home. Consumers were asked to rank 175 home features based on how essential they were to their home purchase decisions.
Consumers ranked the following home features highest:
- Laundry room: 91%
- Energy Star windows: 89%
- Patio: 87%
- Energy Star appliance: 86%
- Ceiling fan: 85%
- Garage storage: 85%
- Exterior lighting: 85%
- Walk-in pantry: 83%
- Hardwood flooring: 83%
- Double kitchen sink: 81%
- Energy Star–whole home: 81%
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After inventory and affordability challenges in 2018, prospective home buyers may have better chances of scoring a property this year. Affordability will remain an issue in some high-priced markets, says realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale, but overall, the national market is looking brighter for buyers who have stayed on the sidelines. Here’s why.
More homes are for sale. For the last few years, a limited number of listings has given buyers fewer choices. But housing experts predict more robust inventory this year. “For buyers, there is going to be more inventory, so that’s a bright spot,” Hale says. “The downside of that bright spot is it might not be in their price range.” The supply of homes for sale under $300,000 may not grow significantly, but they’re also not decreasing, she adds.
Home price growth is slowing. Home prices will still rise but at a much slower pace than the last few years. Hale predicts a 2.2 percent increase in home prices this year, down from last year’s nearly 5 percent growth. “We do still anticipate rising home prices, particularly for below-median-priced homes, so buyers in that price range may have some incentive to buy sooner rather than later,” Hale says. On the flip side, “as rising costs raise the bar to homeownership, some would-be buyers will be knocked out of the market. [That means] remaining buyers may have less competition to contend with than they saw in 2018.”
Mortgage rates are lower. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has backed away from the 5 percent mark, decreasing early this year. That means lower borrowing costs for buyers. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.41 percent last week. “That’s definitely a huge opportunity for buyers because it drastically improves affordability,” Hale says. “And I think that if these low rates persist for a little while, then we’ll actually see stronger sales than we originally forecast.”
Home shoppers will likely face less competition in their offers, and that may allow them more time during their house hunt.
A new report from Redfin shows that only 13 percent of offers written by agents on behalf of their customers faced a bidding war last month—down significantly from 53 percent a year ago.
“Buyers have heard the market has slowed, so now they’re trying to get all of their ‘wants,’ not just their ‘needs,’ ” says Kalena Masching, a Redfin real estate pro in Palo Alto, Calif. “They’re waiting until they find a home they can check more boxes—for instance, three bedrooms instead of two or a higher rated school. In general, they are being more judicious as they think through their purchase. Meanwhile, many sellers have not yet recognized that the market has shifted.”
The number of homes for sale has been slightly increasing in several markets, which has left fewer home buyers competing for each home. In December, the number of homes for sale had grown by 5 percent over a year ago.
Several West Coast markets continue to be among the most competitive, but many are seeing fewer bidding wars compared to a year ago. Portland, Ore.; Denver; and San Diego each saw less than one out of five offers face a bidding war, down from more than half of offers a year earlier, Redfin reports. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle posted the biggest year-over-year percentage drops in bidding wars.
Meanwhile, the least competitive housing markets in January that overall saw the fewest bidding wars were Miami (3 percent), Dallas (6 percent), and Houston (6 percent).
Source: REALTOR Magazine