Last year, limited inventory dominated the headlines for the real estate industry, and that trend looks to continue this year. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), inventory dropped 12.3 percent from November to December, falling to 3.8 percent lower than December 2014. That equated to just a 3.9-month supply of homes.
Generally speaking, a 6-month supply of homes (meaning it would take six months at the current sales pace to sell all the homes on the market) represents a balanced market, one in which there are enough homes to meet demand. For much of 2015, inventory remained well below a 6-month supply, and will likely remain so for 2016.
Why is inventory so constrained? Part of the sharp drop in December is due to the seasonal slow down in many states. Cold weather and holidays keep many buyers out of the market and many sellers waiting for demand to pick back up. Additionally, new home construction came to a standstill when the housing market crashed, so there are fewer new homes available. Existing home inventory is low as well. A combination of factors, such as locked-in low interest rates and a sense that home prices will continue to increase, are keeping current homeowners from listing their homes.
If you’re thinking of selling, this market is very much a seller’s market. When inventory is scarce, buyers are forced to compete over the few homes for sale. Homes are selling faster, and in many markets bidding wars drive home prices up well above asking. At the very least, you’ll be in a strong negotiating position.