Despite some pessimism pertaining to the global and domestic economies, the U.S. housing sector continues to show promising signs of stability and growth. Low levels of new home construction and gaining sales volume fueled by an inventory of affordable housing since Richard Nixon was president have reduced the number of homes on the market. This means home prices may begin to appreciate again.
While there are many factors that can be barriers to buying a home, such as the tightening of mortgage lending rules by banks, consumer confidence in the job market is among one of the top obstacles to home ownership. In the 2011 Housing Pulse Survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, 80% of respondents cited job security as their primary concern when deciding to buy.
For only the fourth time since the beginning of 2010, home sales in August were up both year-over-year and month-over-month, posting an 18.6% gain from last year, with first-time home buyers accounting for nearly a third of all homes purchased. These indications of strength in the housing market may help to add to consumer confidence, which is an integral part of sustained growth. Even though there is still a long road to recovery ahead of us, there are opportunities to be had for both home buyers and sellers.
August home sales were up 18.6% year-to-year, posting a 7.7% increase in sales activity over July despite Hurricane Irene, which struck the Eastern seaboard and New England regions at the end of the month. As a result of the hurricane, the Northeast experienced the smallest increase in sales. At the same time, persisting restrictions among banks affecting home lending are having the greatest constraint on sales levels. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun stated, “The market can easily move into a healthy expansion if mortgage underwriting standards return to normalcy.”
Homes prices were down, with a 5.1% drop in August compared to a year ago. The national median price for homes in August was $168,300, with distressed properties, foreclosures, and short sales still accounting for 31% of sales. The buyer’s market for residential property continues, as favorable prices, and record low interest rates offer the most affordable conditions for purchasing a home in the last 40 years.
The supply of homes measured in months on the market at their current pace of sales fell 10.5% in the month of August, to an 8.5 month supply of inventory, down from a 9.5-month supply in July. With homes being more affordable than they have been in a generation and the lowest levels of new home construction since World War II, this inventory is projected to continue to fall, which will eventually result in the appreciation of home prices and a move toward a balanced market.
As a seller, it is important to understand the current real estate market, and a real estate agent is there to guide sellers every step of the way. Agents can help sellers understand what the level of distressed sales and competition look like in their area. This way, they will be able to price their home right and will more than likely be able to attract attention from potential home buyers.