A pandemic-induced spike in housing demand and a dearth of supply suggests that the spring housing market could be one of the most competitive ever.
A significant fall in new listings due in part to severe weather, in conjunction with already anemic supply, will make it extremely challenging for buyers to find their dream home at the perfect price.
There were nearly fifty percent as many homes for sale at the end of February as compared with the prior February, according to a new calculation by realtor.com, a trend that was accelerated by a decline in the number of new listings to come to market.
“Last month’s record cold and snowstorms likely caused sellers to hit pause, even if only temporarily,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com. “However, in today’s inventory-starved market, any setback is significant.”
To gain ground, new listings would have to burgeon by 25% annually in March and April, which is highly unlikely.
The shortage was seen nationwide, with the biggest drops in new supply in places like Oklahoma City and Kansas City.
This has all been excellent news for sellers, who are now looking for outsized gains thanks to the supply shortage. In January, prices had rallied 10% year over year, according to CoreLogic. While rising mortgage rates are now hurting affordability, so far there has been no significant drop in demand.
Asking prices of newly listed homes hit an all-time high of $347,475 in February, according to Redfin. Redfin also revealed that 55% of homes that went under contract in February did so within their first two weeks on the market, compared with 44% a year ago.
Severe weather hasn’t helped.
“Over the last few weeks winter storms have disrupted the housing market, and mortgage rates have risen sharply,” said Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist. “Although pending sales and new listings have taken a small hit in the last couple of weeks, home price gains are showing no signs of slowing down.”
Analysts had been looking for the trend to continue since January, however.
“Home sales could possibly reach 8 million if we had more inventory,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors. “Mortgage rates should remain very low throughout 2021, although we may have seen the lowest already.”
Strong demand has continued to be problematic amid the continuing low inventory of homes for sale at the start of 2021. At the end of December, inventory showed roughly 1.07 million homes for sale, 23% lower year over year. At the current sales place, that represents a 1.9-month supply and represents the lowest number of homes available since the Realtors began tracking this metric in 1982.
For investors and traders sensing homebuilder strength, ETFs to consider include the Direxion Daily Homebuilders and Supplies Bull and Bear 3X Shares (NYSEArca: NAIL), up over 2.6% Friday, which attempts to deliver triple the daily returns of the Dow Jones U.S. Select Home Construction Index. Investors seeking housing exposure without the leverage can take a look at the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (NYSEArca: XHB), which is green on Friday too.
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