Still a lot of homes for sale, but fewer and fewer choices
Would-be homebuyers in the Baltimore region had more than 15,000 properties to sort through in October, a whole lot considering that the inventory of homes for sale was half as large seven years ago. But new choices are down to unusual lows.
Just over 3,200 homes were newly listed for sale in October, the lowest figure for the month in more than 14 years. (Metropolitan Regional Information Systems began tracking the metro area in late 1997, so anything earlier than that is hazy at best.)
Average for the month: more than 4,100. The next-smallest after this October was October 1997, when about 100 more homes hit the market in the city and five surrounding counties.
The total number of homes listed for sale is also shrinking. That 15,000-unit inventory is the lowest for the month of October since 2005, as boom was just giving way to bust.
Falling numbers of homes newly for sale has been the trend for most of the year. Four of the 10 months with the biggest year-over-year drops in new inventory are in 2011 -- April, July, August and September.
One likely driver is the decline in foreclosures as the robo-signing scandal rocked the mortgage industry. Foreclosure activity appears to be on the brink of an upswing again, so the pool of new homes for sale could swell next year.
Another factor is homeowners who would like to sell but aren't trying, either because they're underwater on their mortgages, unhappy about prices or leery of getting a bigger place in an uncertain economy.
Don't think prospective buyers haven't noticed. One reader commented on an earlier post about falling inventories that choices are more limited than they seem thanks to sharp differences in opinion about what homes are really worth these days.
"We desperately need more space for a growing family in Howard County, and the homes that should be in our price range, are priced at ridiculous prices," wrote Frustrated House Hunter. "People need to wake up and realize that it is not 2006 anymore! I am seeing homes that haven't been updated in ten years that are $400,000 overpriced. While I understand that the sellers NEED to sell at these prices because they have taken second mortgages, etc., the reality is that most of the houses on the market aren't really on the market at all. We don't even bother making offers anymore because the sellers just won't listen and it is a waste of our time."
What are you seeing out there?