Why is inventory so low, and when will it get better?

Why is inventory so low? As of today, October 26, 2023, there are 796 single family homes for sale in Santa Clara County (population appx 2 million people). A year ago it was about 1165 and the end of October. Where have all the listings gone? And when will it get better for home buyers? (You can check Santa Clara County inventory and other real estate stats on this blog.)

Why is inventory so low: historical perspective, how low IS it?

Here’s a look at our houses for sale from Jan 1999 to today. Please note that the MLS has a problem with its data sharing feeds, and if I pull this same info in a month, some of the numbers (not just this month) will likely change.

Inventory 1999 - Oct 2023 for single family homes in Santa Clara County

 

Inventory Averages:

  • Inventory Oct 1999 through October 2022 (only Octobers, 24 months) = 2640.  Inventory was bloated during the Great Recession, so that’s not representative of “normal”.
  • If we consider just 2013 – Oct 2022 (10 Octobers), which I think is much more typical, the average inventory is 1403.5
  • The current inventory level is 57% of the last 10 years and 30% of the last 24 years (not including 2023 in the averages).

The lack of inventory is causing a lack of sales, layoffs in various real estate related industries, and pretty much economically challenging for Realtors, lenders, title and escrow people, inspectors, stagers, photographers, and anyone else involved in the buying and selling of homes.

We have a supply and demand imbalance, with demand outpacing supply but available homes for sale low.

Why is inventory so low?  What is causing the shortage?

Next, let’s consider the root causes of the problem, and which ones may not be ongoing.
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How will the rising interest rates impact housing affordability?

Interest rates and affordabilityThe rising interest rates are impacting most home buyers’ ability to afford the type of house or condo they expected to be able to purchase just a few months ago. The Fed wants to curb all spending, including home buying, and it seems to be working – rising interest rates are having a dampening effect on real estate sales.

Rising interest rates – hypothetical condo buyer

Let’s say a home buyer needs a mortgage of $800,000 to purchase the desired condominium or townhouse, and that said buyer has good credit and 20% down and is seeking a 30 year fixed rate loan.  Interest rates may vary from one lender to another, but as of right now, a 5% to about 5.5% is fairly typical, but some online lenders are advertising 4% and 6% or 6.5% rates may be just around the corner.

$800,000   for 30 year fixed rate with 20% down at 4% interest – monthly principal & interest payment is $3819.32

$800,000   for 30 year fixed rate with 20% down at 5% interest – payment is $4294.57 (12% more than at 4 %)

$800,000   for 30 year fixed rate with 20% down at 6% interest – payment is $4796.40 (26% more than the cost at 4%)

Today I created a data table showing the payments for principle & interest with ascending rates. I took it as high as 16.50%, which was under the highest average rate in 1981, when some consumers paid more than 18% interest rate on their mortgages. (I remember my mom, a Realtor – Pat Pope – talking about those 18% rates at that time. As I recall, it spurred some sellers into carrying back notes just to get their homes sold.)  When Jim and I bought our first house in 1989, our rate was 10.25% after we bought down the rate by paying 2 points. Hence my strong preference for fixed rate mortgages in recent years, when the concern was the risk of rising rates.

 

Rising interest rates - payments on 800k mortgage P and I only

 

What impact will a rising interest rate have on qualifying for the mortgage?

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