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March stats indicate a large housing shortage

Updated: Apr 30, 2021®’s March housing data release reveals that the U.S. housing market began to show signs of slowing in the second half of March. The year-over-year decline in inventory softened, the number of newly listed properties declined, and prices decelerated compared to earlier in the month. This is the first data-based glimpse into the impact the COVID-19 pandemic could have on residential real estate as the market enters the spring home-buying season.

The total number of homes available for sale continued to decline in March. Nationally, inventory decreased 15.7 percent year-over-year, a faster rate of decline compared to the 15.3 percent year-over-year drop in February. This amounted to a loss of 191,000 listings compared to March of last year. However, the progression of the weekly data showed the year-over-year decline in home inventory hitting a low and softening, which could be an early indicator of slowing buyer activity in response to COVID-19. The week ending March 28th showed a year-over-year decline of 15.2 percent compared to a larger decline of 16.8 percent in the week ending February 29th, the largest decline in our records since April 2015.

The volume of newly listed properties in March decreased by 6.4 percent since last year. The progression of the weekly data also showed hints of changes to inventory volumes that could be linked to COVID-19. In the week ending on March 28th, the volume of newly listed properties decreased by 34.0 percent year-over-year, the biggest decline this year. The declines in newly listed homes could be indicative of initial seller response to COVID-19 restrictions, with more potential sellers reevaluating or postponing the sale. If continued, this could mark the start of further declines in new inventory in April.

Housing inventory in the 50 largest U.S. metros declined by 17.1 percent year-over-year in March. The metros which saw the biggest declines in inventory were Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ (-42.2 percent); Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI (-36.2 percent); and San Diego-Carlsbad, CA (-33.4%). Only Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI (+3.6 percent) saw inventory increase over the year.

The typical property was still selling more quickly than last year. Nationally, homes sold in 60 days in March, four days more quickly than March of last year. In the 50 largest U.S. metros, the typical home sold more quickly than the national rate, typically spending 47 days on the market. Properties in Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL; Pittsburgh, PA; and St. Louis, MO-IL; spent the most time on the market, selling in 86, 78 and 65 days, respectively. Meanwhile, properties in San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA; Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO; and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV were scooped up most quickly, spending 24, 26 and 29 days on the market, respectively. 

The median U.S. listing price grew by 3.8 percent, to $320,000 in March, which is a slight deceleration compared to last month, when the median listing price grew by 3.9 percent over the year. The progression of the weekly data showed further hints of deceleration that could be linked to COVID-19. In the week ending on March 28th, the median U.S. listing price only grew by 2.5 percent year-over-year, the slowest pace of growth this year and the slowest since began tracking in 2013. The slower gains could be indicative of early market response to economic uncertainty and restrictions to industry activity, along with lower buyer and seller sentiment. If continued, this could mark the start of further deceleration in asking price growth in April.

Listing prices in the largest metros grew by an average of 5.7 percent from last year, a deceleration from the 6.5 percent year-over-year gain seen last month. Of the largest 50 metros, 45 still saw year-over-year gains in median listing prices.  Pittsburgh, PA (+17.9 percent); Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD (+14.0 percent); and Memphis, TN-MS-AR (+12.7 percent) posted the highest year-over-year median list price growth in March. The steepest price declines were seen in Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX (-2.7 percent); Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI (-1.4 percent); and Houston-The Woodlands-Sugarland, TX (-1.4 percent). 

In March, 15.4 percent of active listings saw their listing prices reduced. This share shrank slightly, by 1.6 percent, over the past year. Among the nation’s largest markets, only 6 saw an increase in their share of price reductions compared to last year. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA saw the greatest increase in it’s share of price reductions in March, up 6.4 percent. It was followed by Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA (+4.4 percent) and Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI (+4.0 percent).

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