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Korean girl looking under bed with flashlight

Where Have All the Houses Disappeared To?

Where are the houses for sale?

If you’re following what’s happening in the current housing market, you’ve seen how the lack of newly constructed homes is a major reason there’s a shortage of housing inventory available to today’s buyers. Another reason is that the inventory of existing homes for sale is shrinking. According to the most recent Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sales are up 10.8% from the same time last year. That exceeds expectations and is great news.

The troubling news from the report is that the sold inventory is not being replaced. As NAR explained,

“Total housing inventory at the end of December totaled 1.40 million units, down 14.6% from November and 8.5% from one year ago. Unsold inventory sits at a 3.0-month supply at the current sales pace, down from the 3.7-month figure recorded in both November and December 2018. Unsold inventory totals have dropped for seven consecutive months from year-ago levels, taking a toll on home sales.”

The situation was also addressed in a recent Zillow article stating,

“The number of for-sale homes in the U.S. is at its lowest point in at least seven years, and the shortage appears poised to get worse before it gets better.”

Bill McBride of Calculated Risk further noted,

“Inventory always decreases sharply in December as people take their homes off the market for the holidays. However, based on the data I’ve collected, this was the lowest level for inventory in at least three decades (the previous low was 1.43 million in December 1993).”

Why is inventory falling so dramatically? I thought the housing market had softened.

A year ago, that was the case – but the market shifted again. Skylar Olsen, Director of Economic Research at Zillow, explains,

“A year ago, a combination of a government shutdown, stock market slump and mortgage rate spike caused a long-anticipated inventory rise. That supposed boom turned out to be a short-lived mirage as buyers came back into the market and more than erased the inventory gains. As a natural reaction, the recent slowdown in home values looks like it’s set to reverse back to accelerating growth right as we head into home shopping season with demand outpacing supply.”

What does this mean if you’re a homeowner thinking of selling?

Now is a great time to consider putting your home on the market. The competition (number of houses on the market) has not been this low in decades. It’s best not to wait for the inventory (both existing homes and new construction) to increase in the spring, as it always does.

Bottom Line

The supply of homes for sale is at a historic low. Buyer demand is surprisingly strong. Now would be a great time to sell.

Toy house on a hand

How Buyers Can Win By Downsizing in 2020

Home values have been increasing for 93 consecutive months, according to the National Association of Realtors. If you’re a homeowner, particularly one thinking about downsizing living space, that’s great news, as you’ve likely built significant equity in your home.

Here’s some more good news: mortgage rates are expected to remain low throughout 2020 at an average of 3.8% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan.

The combination of leveraging your growing equity and capitalizing on low rates could make a big difference in your housing plans this year.

How to Use Your Home Equity

For move-up buyers, the typical pattern for building financial stability and wealth through homeownership works this way: you buy a house and gain equity over several years of mortgage payments and price appreciation. You then take that equity from the sale of your house to make a down payment on your next home and repeat the process.

For homeowners ready to downsize, home equity can work in a slightly different way. What you choose to do depends in part upon your goals.

According to HousingWire.com, for some, the desire to downsize may be related to retirement plans or children aging out of the home. Others may be choosing to live in a smaller home to save money or simplify their lifestyle in a space that’s easier to clean and declutter. The reasons can vary greatly and by generation.

Those who choose to put their equity toward a new home have the opportunity to make a substantial down payment or maybe even to buy their next home in cash. This is incredibly valuable if your goal is to have a minimal mortgage payment or none at all.

A local real estate professional can help you evaluate your equity and how to use it wisely. If you’re planning to downsize, keep in mind that home prices are anticipated to continue rising in 2020, which could influence your choices.

The Impact of Low Mortgage Rates

Low mortgage rates can offset price hikes, so locking in while rates are low will be key. For many downsizing homeowners, a loan with a shorter term is ideal, so the balance can be reduced more quickly.

Interest rates on 10, 15, and 20-year loans are lower than the rates on a 30-year fixed-rate loan. If you’re downsizing your housing costs, you may prefer a shorter-term loan to pay off your home faster. This way, you can save thousands in interest payments over time.

Bottom Line

If you’re planning a transition into a smaller home, the twin trends of low mortgage rates and rising home equity can kickstart or boost your plans, especially if you’re anticipating retirement soon or just want to live in a smaller home that’s easier to maintain. Let’s get together today to explore your options.