Realtor.com listing data for February suggest buyers are getting an early start to the 2013 home buying season amid signs that sellers are finally responding to the positive market by increasing depleted inventories.
While inventories remain at record lows, the average age of the inventory was down by 9.26 percent over the month and by 11.71 percent on a year-over- year basis, suggesting that many reluctant home sellers may finally be coming off the fence to take advantage of recent improvements in housing prices. From January to February, the median age of the inventory fell in 145 of the 146 markets tracked by Realtor.com. The national median list price also reversed its recent downward trend, rising by 1.55% over the month and 1.01% on an annual basis. And while list prices continue to decline in many smaller industrialized markets in the Midwest and North East, the number of markets experiencing a decline is beginning to turn around, spelling more good news for the housing market and the US economy at large.
The nationwide median list price f rose to $189,900 in February. While list prices remain about 2.6 percent below their peak during the 2012 home buying season ($195,000)–and 24 percent below their level in January 2007 ($249,900)–if list prices continue to pick up speed as they did last year in the spring, 2013 could prove to be another good year for the housing market.
The total U.S. for-sale inventory of remained at near-record lows in February, with 1,494,218 units for sale. While the inventory was slightly up on a monthly basis, reflecting the beginning of the home buying season, it was down by 15.97 percent compared to a year ago and is less than half its peak of 3.1 million units in September 2007. Record low inventories, combined with list prices that are once again on the rise, are likely to set the stage for continued gains in housing values in the upcoming year.
The median age of inventory of for-sale listings fell to 98 days in February, 11.71% below the median age one year ago (February 2011). While the median age of the inventory is highly seasonal, the year-over-year decline is consistent with a gradual, but persistent downward trend that has been occurring for the past two years.
The strength of housing markets varied greatly by region, with markets in California registering the highest increases in listing prices coupled with the largest inventory declines. Phoenix, Seattle and Denver were also among the top performers. However, although their numbers have begun to decline, many smaller industrialized markets in the Midwest and the Northeast continue to register year-over-year list price declines, as did Philadelphia, Chicago and New York City.