by Michelle L. Anderson, MBA, January 29, 2020
The low housing inventory has been driving up home prices and creating a seller’s market. In December 2019, the inventory in Pinellas County dipped to a supply of 2.3 months – way short of a balanced market of 5.5 months. We are talking supply and demand here.
One reason for the low inventory is that homeowners are staying in their homes longer than they did previously. Reasons may include longer lifespans and changing lifestyles of the baby boomer generation, homeowners wanting to capitalize on a rising market or changes in consumer’s mentality following the past housing bust of 2007-2008. From 2001 – 2008, Americans held their homes for an average of only 6 years. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal*, “More homeowners staying put has helped cause housing inventory to dwindle to its lowest level in decades, which has also helped push up prices on homes for sale. Adjusted for population, the inventory of homes for sale is now near the lowest level in 37 years of record-keeping.”
The good news is that we may be seeing a shift. In 2018, the nationwide average was 13 years, which shifted down to 10 years in 2019*. In Florida, the rate is lower – 8 years. Florida homeowners likely hold homes for a shorter period because they are bought as 2nd homes, bought later in life, or are purchased by those who come from other states and later decide to return to their state of origin.
Conventional thought has been that a homeowner should hold their home on average at least 5 years to break even. This number fluctuates with the market. Currently in St. Pete, the average break-even point is at 3 years. From this perspective, I think it bodes well for the financial health of Americans that they are staying in their homes longer. If in homeowner doesn’t hold their home up to the break-even point, they may have actually been better off renting. To calculate break-even points by area, down-payment and home price, this online calculator can be used.
Housing Inventory Turnover
Another way to analyze housing inventory trends is to calculate the inventory turnover rate. This rate can be useful when comparing neighborhoods within an area and what the expectation for new homes coming on the market may be. It is a way to determine if a neighborhood’s residents tend to stay put.
The neighborhood turnover rate is the percentage of homes in a neighborhood that sell each year. The rate is calculated by dividing the total number of homes in a neighborhood by the total number of homes that sold in that year. I calculated the turnover rates for a few St. Pete Neighborhoods:
Central Oak Park – 12% (of 1,727 homes on North Streets)
Historic Kenwood – 8.3% (of 814 homes)
Historic Old Northeast – 8.3% (of 534 homes)
Broadwater – 21% (of 378 homes)
Old Southeast – 16% – of 247 homes
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*National Association of Realtors, How Long Do Homeowners Stay in Their Homes, Jan. 8, 2020
*Wall Street Journal, “People Are Staying in Their Homes Longer—a Big Reason for Slower Sales,” Nov. 3, 2019
Back to Econ 101 and Supply & Demand –
Most of the nation is currently in a seller’s market and has been for some time. While it may seem obvious this means that the market favors home sellers over buyers, what does it really mean?
A seller’s market means that there are more buyers than sellers active in the market. The inventory of homes is low. This creates a competitive marketplace where homes sell at a faster rate and often get multiple offers on the same home. This is also contributing to the increase in home prices (think supply and demand). In a seller’s market, buyers have less bargaining power. Currently, a buyer may feel they don’t have an abundance of homes to chose from and in some cases are waiting for new homes to come on the market.
To gauge just how strong of a seller’s market we are in and what direction the market is heading, look at the month’s supply of inventory. The industry standard for a balanced market is 5.5 months of inventory. The statistics below are provided by Florida Realtors (Association).
Pinellas County (St. Petersburg/ Clearwater) – Median Sale Price & home inventory
The above chart shows that the median sale price for single family homes in Pinellas County have gone up 8.7% in the past year and the inventory has gone down 14.8%. The median sale price of condominiums and townhomes went up an ever greater amount of 14.4% and the inventory was down a whopping 17.6% over the prior year.
To read more on a seller’s market, read my Blog “The Best Time of Year to List a House for Sale,” which explains the absorption rate and it’s correlation to seller’s and buyer’s markets.