Real Estate Inventory Still Building

Thursday, September 13, 2007 | 11:37 AM

One of the reasons I have not come to the conclusion that we are done with falling home sales and prices is the massive build up in new and existing homes for sale.

The most recent data shows inventory is continuing to rise.

Not only that, but the inventory build is occurring even as U.S. mortgage rates drop below year-ago levels

Homes for Sale as a percentage of Total Housing Units


The chart above, courtesy of Raymond James' Jeff Saut, shows the inventory build up is not only still ongoing, its actually trending higher.

This chart makes clear why this cycle is potentially so much worse than the 1988 - 96 era, where prices were flat to negative for a decade. 

Prices have slipped, but not nearly enough to eliminate the inventory. This has lead the usually cheerleading folks over at the N.A.R. to yet again lower their forecast for 2007 existing-home sales for the seventh-straight month. The real estate agent trade group is now predicting a drop of 8.6 percent in home sales versus last year. And, they expect new-home sales will fall a whopping 24% to 801,000 this year, and to 741,000 next year.

Re_signsPrices have failed to come down enough to jump start more activity. Sellers have been stubbornly sticking to their imagined top tick prices of 2005.

Thus, Supply remains high, and if we believe the NAR or OFHEO, prices have slipped only slightly. Econ 101 informs us that until prices fall appreciably, the inventory situation will not improve.

There is a psychological component to all this: It very much reminds me of the investors who when having missed selling Amazon at $400 and Yahoo at $200 and EMC at $80 and Cisco at $60, refused to take 10% less. So they ended up riding the stocks all the way to multi year lows.

So they held onto stocks, hoping to sell again at higher prices, all the while prices fell.

One can imagine home sellers doing something similar. In their minds, their selling prices are "anchored" at the prices they imagined getting at the top.   

Oh, and the NAR only forecasts a price drop of "only" 1.7% this year. . .

Mortgage Problems to Dampen Home Sales in The Short Term
NAR September 11, 2007

Home Listings Show Modest August Rise
Total Rose 1.8% From Prior Month In 18 Metro Areas
WSJ, September 13, 2007; Page D3
(free version)

U.S. mortgage rates drop below year-ago levels
Amy Hoak
MarketWatch,  10:42 AM ET Sep 13, 2007

Realtors lower existing-home sales forecast
Associated Press
September 12, 2007,0,3541394.story

See also End of Boom For Housing Hits Title Firms

Thursday, September 13, 2007 | 11:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (33) | TrackBack (1) add to | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post



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» Read it here first: Illogical Home Sellers from The Big Picture
David Leonhardt has a terrific column in yesterday's NYT that hits upon many of our favorite themes:Real Estate sellers (like other humans) are often irrational; Price Anchoring occurs with many investors; Here's what we wrote back in September 2007:Pr... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 27, 2008 1:32:19 PM


Too many small-time housing specs and flippers think that they're above average and will survive the fray. As always, the first loss is the most certain.

Speaking of cutting your losses (or lack thereof), it'll be interesting to see how many qualified investors (supposedly smart money) will take advantage of the quarterly redemption window.

Volatility awaits come September 20-30.

Posted by: johntron | Sep 13, 2007 12:08:26 PM

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