Housing inventory creeping up; buyer demand high

The media is lauding the housing inventory increase, but none of that matters if the buyer demand slows. The good news is that all indicators show that isn’t happening yet.

For the second month in a row, housing inventory, defined as the number of homes listed in the MLS at the end of each month, has increased, indicating that sellers are getting off the fence knowing time is limited to get record prices for their homes, according to the latest Zillow Real Estate Market Report.

Intense demand for houses over the course of the pandemic sent inventory plummeting to a low of 33% below that for April of the prior year, ramping up competition for houses and elevating prices. But inventory has begun to recover since then, with a 3.1% improvement in June, following a 3.9% increase in May. Inventory now stands at 29.2% below 2020 levels. 

“Another month of rising housing inventory gives buyers some additional options and a little more bargaining power,” said Jeff Tucker, senior economist at Zillow. “While the level of inventory remains incredibly low by historic norms, it is now on a trajectory that should give buyers reason to hope for a cool down in price growth this winter, consistent with normal seasonal trends.” 

Inventory growth still has a long way to go before it balances out the market, however, as relentless demand pushed appreciation into new territory again in June.

Buyer demand remains high

According to the ShowingTime Showing Index®, 64 markets still averaged double-digit showings per listing during the month, led again by Seattle and Denver. That was down almost half from May, when 113 markets averaged double-digit showings per listing, and down from a very busy April when 146 markets were in double digits.

“Buyer demand remains healthy,” said ShowingTime President Michael Lane. “Showing traffic is still above last year’s levels – other than in the Northeast, where it is down 3 percent from last year – though we saw a quick month-to-month drop in the number of showings per listing in June, showing an uncharacteristically rapid slowdown in real estate demand coming into the summer. This is likely to cause an increase in inventory levels in the coming months and ease the upward pressure on real estate prices that has pushed them to historic highs over the last 12 months.”

Home value appreciation broke annual records for the second month in a row, notching 15% growth over last year — the highest in Zillow data reaching back through 1996. The Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI) reached $293,349, up $38,341 compared to last June. 

Annual appreciation among the nation’s top 50 metropolitan areas ranged from New Orleans’ 10.1% to Austin’s huge 36.8%, sitting just ahead of Phoenix’s 26.6%.

National home value growth continued to accelerate month over month from a revised 1.8% in May to 2% in June, a new record high in the series’ history. Growth in each of the past four months has been far above the pre-pandemic high of 1%, set in the summer of 2005.