Housing Listings Multiply in June

By Nick Timiraos as posted in The Wall Street Journal

Here comes the housing inventory.

The number of homes listed for sale increased by 4.3% in June to 1.9 million homes, the highest level in the last year, according to data released Monday by Realtor.com.

Housing inventory has steadily declined over most of the past two years. Listings typically climb heading into the spring and summer, when housing activity hits a seasonal peak. But inventories appear to be posting larger-than-usual gains in many markets right now as they rise from their lowest levels in at least a decade. Economists say rising home prices could convince more sellers to test the market if price increases keep up.

Nationally, the number of homes listed for sale stood 7.3% below their levels of one year earlier. The year-over-year decline stood at 18.6% in February, by contrast.

Among the nation’s 30 largest markets, listings were above the levels of a year earlier in four places. All four of those markets had seen big inventory declines over the past two years. Housing inventory was up by 11% in Sacramento, Calif.; by 10.9% in Atlanta; by 6.2% in Phoenix; and by 2.2% in Miami.

Another five cities posted declines of less than the national average decline of 7.3%: Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, and Charlotte, N.C.

By contrast, inventories were far below last year’s level in Boston (-35.1%), Denver (-30.1%), Detroit (-25.7%), Seattle (-23.2%), and San Francisco (-21.7%).

For the last two years, real-estate agents in a growing number of markets have complained that the low supply of homes for sale has limited the number of transactions—even though the supply constraints have propelled home prices higher.

The question now is whether higher inventory will lead to higher sales volumes, and whether it will also slow the pace of home-price gains. Another wild card: how homeowners respond to mortgage rates that have jumped by at least a percentage point over the last two months.

Compared with May, inventories rose in 20 cities, according to Realtor.com. The data showed a spike in listings in Southern California, with inventories rising by 51.5% in Orange County, by 45.7% in Los Angeles and by 18.1% in San Diego.

Nationally, median asking prices rose by 0.5% in June from the previous month to $199,900, and by 5% from one year ago. Some 27 of the top 30 metro areas posted annual gains.

The Realtor.com figures include sale listings from more than 800 multiple-listing services across the country. They don’t cover all homes for sale, including those that are “for sale by owner” and newly constructed homes that aren’t always listed by the services.

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