Scales Tipping Toward Homebuyers

Scales Tipping Toward Homebuyers

Analysis from realtor.com and Redfin points to growing inventory and in some cases, falling home prices.

Market conditions are tipping toward homebuyers for the first time in years, prompted by a wave of new for-sale listings and slowing home sales, according to new research by realtor.com.®

The top 10 markets for homebuyers include Albany, N.Y.; Chicago; San Antonio; Jacksonville, Fla., Riverside, Calif.; Los Angeles; Providence, R.I.; Dallas; Nashville, Tenn.; and Tampa, Fla.

“The U.S. housing market has largely favored sellers over the last several years as a result of the record-breaking low inventory and red-hot demand that led to intense competition and fast-rising home prices. However, we’re now seeing some metros buck this trend,” according to Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com.

“Slowing sales and growing inventories have caused months supply to increase in many markets across the country. These buyer-friendly markets are areas where inventory already outpaces sales relative to other large markets and they are continuing to move in a buyer-friendly direction, but they’re not the only areas trending this way.”

To determine the top markets for buyers, realtor.com® focused its analysis on markets where the pace of sales relative to inventory is below the national average and slowing, inventory of available homes for sale is growing, and sales prices are growing slower than the national average or declining.

Slow Sales Pace Replenishes Housing Inventory

Months supply data, which examines how long inventory would last under the current amount of demand if no more inventory were added, has increased to 5.2 months in these 10 metros, up from 4.5 months this time last year. This means, it would take 5.2 months to completely run out of available homes for sale. In fact, all 10 markets have more than four months of supply and an absorption rate under 25 percent, which translates into less than one home sale per month, for every five homes listed. Meanwhile, months supply in these markets is one month greater than in the top 50 largest U.S. markets, indicating 24 percent more inventory relative to sales in these areas.

Hale added, “These 10 housing markets are already more buyer-friendly when looking at the availability of homes for sale in different markets, however, the mismatch between what’s available and what buyers want has led to lukewarm demand and lackluster sales. As inventory continues to grow in these markets, buyers will see more options, and should ultimately gain more bargaining power.”

Inventory Growth Breaks Double Digits

As demand cools in these top markets for buyers, inventory continues to ramp up. On average, the top markets for buyers are seeing active inventory grow at a rapid 14.6 percent pace, year-over-year, compared to the national growth rate of just 4.0 percent. This paints a completely different picture from the supply constrained conditions that haunted buyers in many areas for so long. Los Angeles, Dallas, and Nashville, which were previously some of the most constrained among these buyer friendly markets, have seen the greatest inventory growth, as each of these markets have increased its active inventory by over 24 percent, year-over-year.

Home Price Growth Hits a Wall

In reaction to the increased inventory and lessened demand, sales price growth has hit a wall in these markets, and one is even seeing home prices decline. On average, sales prices in the 10 markets have grown a miniscule 1.4 percent. This is down dramatically from the 8.4 percent sales price growth seen this time last year, and 6.3 percent growth in 2017. Not coincidentally, lessened demand and pricier inventory have led to an impact on sales, which have declined 5.5 percent on average, year-over-year. In Tampa, home prices have declined year-over-year for the first time since 2012.

In Chicago, Los Angeles, and Providence, the housing market slowdown can be traced to economic growth that’s fallen behind the rest of the country and pushed potential buyers to seek career options elsewhere. In these three markets, both household and job creation are lagging behind the U.S. average.

A similar pattern is occurring in Riverside, Tampa, and Jacksonville, where job growth has notably lagged the U.S. average. In Tampa and Jacksonville, the tax reform boosted out-of state buyer activity last year, but the boost has faded as prices rise and perceived value decreases.

In Nashville, Dallas and San Antonio, the relative slowdown can be attributed to the overheating these markets have witnessed. Over the last three years in particular, home price growth in these Southern markets has reached unsustainable levels, exhausting buyers’ budgets and causing the pace of sales to slow dramatically. Since the end of 2015, home prices in the three markets combined have grown notably faster than the U.S. average, up 21 percent, compared to 13 percent nationally during the three year period, respectively.

Mid- to low-tier priced homes in particular remain difficult to find, as the median household in these areas are only able to afford just 26 percent, 20 percent, and 21 percent of the available inventory, compared with 36 percent of available inventory being affordable to the median-income household nationwide.

New Home Prices Fall

One component in housing affordability is the cost of new construction, so news that sale prices for newly built homes fell 1 percent year over year to a median of $363,900 in the first quarter, is significant. It is the first such drop in seven years, according to a new report from Redfin.

Sales of new homes were down 3.1 percent year over year in the first quarter, the third consecutive quarter of declines. Supply of new homes was up 4.2 percent in the first quarter, the fourth consecutive period of increases.

The small declines in new-home sale prices and sales and the rise in supply were expected. Redfin first reported that demand for new homes was cooling in the second half of 2018 as builders started dropping prices and offering incentives to agents and buyers showing interest in new construction, such as free design upgrades.

Connie Durnal, a Redfin agent in Dallas, said builders are now using other methods to lower prices for new homes in her area, such as smaller lot sizes and including fewer upgrades in spec homes (those that are built without a buyer lined up). Lowering prices is part of an effort to sell some of the new-home inventory that’s been piling up in Dallas (supply of new homes in the Dallas metro was up 14.7% in the first quarter).

“The market for new homes is shifting. Builders are readjusting their pricing to be more competitive, both in low-end and high-end homes. Some of my clients have been able to buy new homes at prices we never could have negotiated a year ago,” Durnal said.

“One reason builders are able to offer homes for lower prices is because in some cases, they’re building on smaller lots farther away from the city center, like in the northern suburbs. They’re also reducing monetary incentives such as design center credits and built-in blinds in favor of offering the home for sale at a lower price. That way, builders end up netting the same amount of money on a sale but homebuyers may feel that they’re getting a better price.”

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After earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Central Florida, Tracey set out in the real world at Florida Realtors in 1994 as a communication assistant, working her way up to editor in chief of Florida Realtor magazine. In 2004, she left the association to start her freelance writing and editing business. One of her first clients was REAL Trends, and she started working for the organization in 2005. In 2014, Tracey was promoted to editor in chief of publications for REAL Trends. She handles the writing and editing of all REAL Trends publications and marketing materials, including LORE Magazine, the REAL Trends newsletter and the blog. She is also the primary podcast interviewer where she conducts interviews with top real estate industry leaders and affiliated industry leaders. Tracey is married with two children.

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