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It’s been nearly a decade since inventories of homes for sale were so low. Typically, inventories are seasonal, rising in the spring when the home-buying season begins and declining through the fall months as real estate markets quiet down over the holidays. This has not been true in recent memory, however. Inventories have fallen during the spring and stayed low—20 percent or more below normal—into the summer months.
Several factors are causing the inventory drought, which is much worse for lower-priced homes than those that are priced higher. First, more than a quarter of all homeowners with a mortgage owe more than their homes are worth, making it impossible for them to sell. Second, millions of foreclosures are still stuck in the processing pipeline and unavailable for purchase. Third, prices have yet to improve enough in most markets to create an incentive for owners to sell.
The drought is worst in the West, where foreclosures are processed faster and demand for affordably priced houses is strong. The top ten markets in the nation where houses were selling the fastest in June, according to Realtor.com, were Oakland, Denver, Anchorage, Fresno, Bakersfield, Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, San Jose, San Francisco, Detroit, and Phoenix-Mesa. Homes are turning over in less than 50 days in those markets, much faster than the national median of 84 days. Yet the national median for time on market is nearly 10 percent lower than it was a year ago at this time.
So what’s a homebuyer to do when there just doesn’t seem to be much worth buying? Here are some tips for finding hidden homes in today’s real estate market:
Finally, this is a time when you need a really good buyer’s agent. Not all agents have the experience and certified training of a buyer’s agent. Make sure you are working with someone who can help you get your finances ready to buy and who really knows how to sniff out the hidden homes.
Steve Cook is Executive Vice President of Reecon Advisors and covers government and industry news for the Reecon Advisory Report.
Cook is a member of the National Press Club, the Public Relations Society of America and the National Association of Real Estate Editors, where he served as second vice president. Twice he has been named one of the 100 most influential people in real estate. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where he was editor of the student newspaper. In addition to serving as managing editor of the Report, Cook provides public relations consulting services to real estate and financial services companies, and trade associations, including some of the leading companies in online residential real estate.
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