February saw noticeably fewer homes come onto the market compared to the previous year, and the lower inventory is fueling price rises across the country.
That’s according to realtor.com’s February Housing Trends report, which has economists warning of an especially competitive spring home buying season.
All told, housing inventory in the U.S. has fallen by a massive 15.3% since February 2019, the largest ever annual decline since realtor.com began tracking such data. Of the nation’s top 50 largest metro areas, 25 saw inventory fall by more than 20%. The largest falls where in Phoenix, San Diego and San Jose, California; which saw an inventory decrease of more than 36% compared to one year ago.
The inventory crunch has helped push the median U.S. listing price up 3.9% to $310,000, realtor.com reported.
“The Fed’s decision to cut rates by 50 basis points earlier this week in reaction to concerns over the spread of COVID-19 [also called the coronavirus] is good for home buyers, but only if they can find a home to purchase,” said Danielle Hale, realtor.com’s chief economist. “Finding a home remains the chief challenge in today’s inventory-starved market. Given the still-decreasing number of homes for sale in many markets, if a listed home is priced well, expect it to sell quickly this year. Construction of new homes will need to jump into overdrive in order to bring the nation’s supply and demand for housing back toward equilibrium.”
Hale also said it remains unclear what kind of impact the coronavirus will have on consumer spending.
The latest housing numbers don’t take into account the mounting fears of COVID-19 outbreaks in the U.S. over the last week. However, last month, the housing market was robust. Home prices in 46 of the 50 largest markets in February were, on average, 6.5% higher than a year earlier. Philadelphia saw the largest home price increase in the nation, up 17% annually to $295,000.