At the end of the first quarter, inventories fell to their lowest levels since the beginning of the recovery and fell to a 3.8 months’ supply by the end of March.
By April, tight supplies reached a point where they started crippling sales, which fell 2.4 percent. On a national basis, the total supply improved slightly in April, but the national inventory is still 9 percent below last year’s level, which was below the year before.
We are now in the third year of an inventory drought that echoes conditions at the peak of the boom 10 years ago.
National numbers are only aggregations of hundreds of markets, and they may be masking what’s going on at the ground level where people buy and sell homes.
One out of 10 of the nation’s 100 largest markets had larger numbers of active listings at the end of March than they did 12 months earlier. Some of them aren’t doing as well as they normally do, and are barely in the black. Two are flush with properties.
Why are some markets missing the misery and others are not? What can these fortunate metros tell us about how to cure the drought that has left the housing recovery dry and barren? Do they hold the key — or even clues — to a national inventory recovery?
Drawing on Q1 inventory data from realtor.com, which carries about 1.4 million active listings, 12 of the nation’s 100 largest markets report an annual increase in listings.
The multiple listing services for two markets, Denver and Pittsburgh, reported that their positive investor counts had turned negative in April, so they were eliminated from the list.
A cursory look at the list rings some bells. Palm Bay, Florida; Las Vegas; Cape Coral, Florida and Fresno, California; were all epicenters of the foreclosures that shook real estate markets following the housing bust in 2007.
Thousands of homes became rentals and diminished the stock of ownership properties. The inventory of single-family rental houses grew dramatically to 12 percent of all housing units in 2015, up from 9 percent in 2006. The vast majority of these are owned by small investors with fewer than 10 rental properties.
The Texas cities of Dallas, Houston, Austin and McAllen along with Tulsa, Oklahoma, are in a similar situation. They are centers of the oil industry boom (created by new technology like fracking) that took off in 2011. The boom created a large demand for housing.
Austin’s housing shortage was also generated by a boom in its technology industry. With the decline in oil prices, employment had fallen and housing demand had diminished temporarily, which helped inventories recover.
Sales are down 8.53 percent in Tulsa, and the decline in home values hit the housing market hard in McAllen. Today, McAllen ranks third in the national growth of underwater mortgages, up by 7,746 homes in the last quarter.
However, in addition to layoffs, positive inventories in Texas and Oklahoma owe more to another force: new construction.
The housing recession devastated homebuilders, and it has taken years for them to restock their supply of land and labor. The oil boom gave Texas builders a three-year head start in advance of the national housing recovery.
With fewer regulatory constraints than most other states and more time to ramp up production, Texas now leads the nation in permits issued and housing starts, which in April were up 26.7 percent quarter-over-quarter, the strongest showing in more than a decade.
Quarterly starts were up 4.6 percent in Dallas, 5.3 percent in Houston, and 5.8 percent in San Antonio. April new home sales in Austin, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston and San Antonio rose more than 17 percent over 2016.
MLSs serving markets like Dallas and Houston may also carry more new home listings in their inventories than other MLSs because of the success of HomesUSA, a platform for real estate agents to publish and manage builder inventory on the MLS.
To learn more about current real estate trends in Cape Coral, FL contact a member of the 9 Core Realty team!