The number of homes listed for sale, which stood at an 11-year low at the end of last year, fell even further in January, according to a report released Thursday.

There were just 1.48 million homes listed for sale at the end of January, down by 5.6 percent from December and by 16.5 percent from one year ago, according to data compiled by The National Association of Realtors (NAR) via Realtor.com. That’s the lowest level since the firm began its count in 2007.

NAR reported last month that inventory ended 2012 at an 11-year low.

It’s normal for inventories to decline in December and January, as home sellers wait for the start of the spring buying season to list their homes for sale. But the shortage of real estate for sale in a growing number of U.S. markets is maddening for would-be buyers who frequently complain that there aren’t enough good choices. Bidding wars are becoming more common.

According to Housing Tracker, there were about 7,133 single family and condo homes for sale in San Diego as of Wednesday. The median asking price of these homes was approximately $400,000. Since this time last year, the inventory of homes for sale has decreased by 40.8 percent and the median price has increased by 14.3 percent. Nationally, median asking prices were down by 0.5 percent from December and up by 0.8 percent from one year ago.

Home Prices Rise as Inventories FallBuying Out of State Real Estate Image

Housing inventory is low right now for several reasons. Notably, housing demand has picked up over the past 18 months, first as investors moved in to snatch up bargains on distressed properties, and later as demand from traditional buyers has picked up. Many investors have been buying homes that can be held as rental properties, which has kept them off the market.

Meanwhile, banks have slowed down their pace of foreclosure. The share of delinquent mortgages has been declining over the past three years, though it is still high. Lenders and other mortgage companies are also facing new processing requirements for foreclosures in some states, such as California, that have led to further declines in foreclosed-property listings.

Many homeowners may be unwilling or unable to list their homes for sale because they don’t have any equity, or because they don’t have enough equity to sell their home and make a down payment their next home. Others that have equity may simply be unwilling to sell at a steep discount to prices that they would have paid in 2005, 2006 or 2007.

The Realtor.com figures include sale listings from more than 800 multiple-listing services across the country. They don’t cover all homes for sale, including those that are “for sale by owner” and newly constructed homes that aren’t always listed by the services.

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This is filed under National Markets.


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