One of the most frustrating aspects of my job is having ready and eager buyers and no houses to show them. Inventory waxes and wanes, based on demand and season, with inventory traditionally at the low point over the winter. But usually I can cobble together a selection of houses in most categories. This winter, though has been particularly tough, and I’ve been pulling out my non-existent hair looking for houses. For the first time I can recall, I’ve told a few buyers that there’s no point in making a trip up because there really isn’t anything to see that fits their criteria. I’m not talking about buyers who have unrealistic price expectations for what they’re looking for, but buyers with reasonable expectations and budgets.
I took a lok at the numbers. In 2015, there were 699 single family homes sold in Sullivan County, That’s 20.5% higher than 2014, and a whopping 48% higher than the low in 2011. But supply isn’t. In March 2011, there were 1058 single family homes listed for sale in the Sullivan MLS, a 26 month supply based on the 472 sales that year. This March, there were just 746, a 13 month supply based on the 699 sales in 2015 (a pace that seems to be holding into 2016).Note: the inventory numbers from the Sullivan MLS don’t include all houses listed for sale, as there are some homes for sale in the county that are listed in other MLSs and not in the Sullivan MLS. but the relative picture is accurate. A 13 month supply may seem like a lot, but it isn’t. During the pre-2008 market peak, we had a 16-18 month supply, and post recession, it ranged between 20 and 26 months
There are a few factors that have contributed to the particularly tight inventory situation this winter. The very mild weather has led to much higher than usual winter buying activity. There is a ‘second season’ here, from roughly mid January to mid March, with die hard shoppers schlepping through the snow shopping for a house to be in for the summer. I’d venture that the foot traffic this year could be as much as double over a typical winter. On the inventory side, while winter is a low period for new listings, usually there’s a reasonably good selection of ‘leftover’ inventory from the fall to show. In most years, the fall selling season trails off in mid November, a few weeks before Thanksgiving. In 2015, though, it continued robust through the end of the year, and a lot of houses that might have been expected to lay over went into deals.
This has created a perfect storm, with a lot of buyers and not a lot of houses to show them. Typically inventory doesn’t start recharging until mid April. A lot of potential sellers don’t want to deal with the hassle of having their houses on the market during the winter and keeping them plowed out. So they tend to wait until April or May to list or relist. Hopefully, we’ll see a listing surge over the next six weeks to begin to recharge the tapped out inventory.