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FROM an NAR post about why more homes aren't selling...

By
Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Properties

Here’s a breakdown of why inventory has continued to drop this year:

Many homeowners are underwater: More than 10 million homeowners owe more on their mortgage than their homes are worth, according to CoreLogic Inc. CLGX -1.27% That pencils out to around 22% of homeowners with a mortgage, or 15% of all homeowners (since not every homeowner has a mortgage). Underwater owners aren’t likely to sell unless they need to move due to changing life (marriage, divorce) or financial circumstances, and they’ll take a hit on their credit for pursuing a short sale, where the bank allows the home to sell for less than the amount owed. Data from CoreLogic show that inventory has been the most constrained in housing markets where there’s the largest concentration of underwater borrowers.

Others don’t have enough equity to “trade up”: Another 10 million homeowners have less than 20% equity in their current residence, meaning they can’t easily “trade up” to their next house. Traditionally, homeowners have relied on home equity to make the down payment on their next home, and to pay their real-estate agent to sell their current home and buy their next one. These “under-equitied” homeowners—meaning they don’t have enough equity to make a move to a more expensive home—have added to the drag on inventory.

Everyone wants to buy at the bottom, but few want to sell: Even those people who do have plenty of home equity are likely reluctant to sell if they think prices will be higher tomorrow. Would you sell your largest asset today if you thought it might be worth 5% more next year? This helps explain why markets such as Denver and Dallas, which didn’t have huge housing bubbles and thus had smaller shares of underwater borrowers, have also seen double-digit inventory declines.

More purchases from investors of all stripes: From the big institutional investors that have been grabbing all the headlines, to the mom-and-pop landlords that have traditionally played a much larger role renting out homes, investors have increasingly bought homes that can be rented out rather than flipped and resold for quick profits. This is further keeping inventory off the market in two ways: homes that are bought at courthouse foreclosure auctions never show up on multiple-listing services when they’re initially sold. They’re also held out of the for-sale pool because they’re being rented out.

Banks have been slower at foreclosing: Banks and other companies that process delinquent mortgages have had trouble proving that they’ve followed state law in taking title to homes ever since the “robo-signing” scandal surfaced in late 2010, and they’ve also had to meet a host of new state and federal rules governing loan modifications and foreclosures from settlements spawned by the robo-scandal. Banks have also become better about approving short sales and loan modifications, which has curbed the flow of foreclosed properties onto the market.

Builders have been putting up fewer homes: Housing starts were severely depressed from 2009 through 2011 and have only recently rebounded off of those low levels. Consequently, there’s been much less new home inventory being added to the market at a time when demand (boosted by increases in household formation) is picking up. If more homes are held off the market—for any of the five reasons above—you can bet that builders will move in to fill the void.

Many of these factors that have been dragging down inventory aren’t signs of “normal” or “healthy” housing markets—but then, we probably haven’t had a normal market for around a decade now. If anything, declining inventory shows that normal supply-and-demand dynamics are returning, which is an important step towards putting a floor under home prices and giving markets time to get back to health.

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David Saks
Memphis, TN
Broker / Industry Analyst

If the nations property tax assessors would stop inflating values to tap the unjustifiably high aaessed market values that that they place on commercial and residential property for more tax revenue, the housing market would improve. It's easy for them to do and get away with because they're protected by the associative municipal governments. If licensed appraisers did the same things the property assessors do the prisons would run out space because of all of the licensed appraisers that would be busted for fraudulent misrepresentation of fair market value for loan purposes.

Constuction materials and transportation costs are through the roof (no pun intended) :-),  hence fewer new construction permits.

Jan 23, 2013 12:49 AM
Anonymous
Kate Conover

I actually strenuously disagree with this comment.  Appraisers are coming in low on almost all my listings and sales --- told to do so, I'm sure, by banks that are fearful of being overinvested in properties.  Of course, I can only speak for NJ, but it's been happening for a few years now.

Mar 24, 2013 10:54 PM
#2