Friday, December 26, 2014

Question #10 for 2015: How much will housing inventory increase in 2015?

by Bill McBride on 12/26/2014 09:36:00 AM

Earlier I posted some questions for next year: Ten Economic Questions for 2015. I'll try to add some thoughts, and maybe some predictions for each question.

Here is a review of the Ten Economic Questions for 2014.

10) Housing Inventory: It appears housing inventory bottomed in early 2013. Will inventory increase further in 2015, and, if so, by how much?

Tracking housing inventory is very helpful.  The plunge in inventory in 2011 helped me call the bottom for house prices in early 2012 (The Housing Bottom is Here).  And the increase in inventory in late 2005 (see first graph below) helped me call the top for house prices in 2006.

This graph shows nationwide inventory for existing homes through November 2014.

Existing Home Inventory Click on graph for larger image.

According to the NAR, inventory at 2.09 million is up slightly year-over-year from 2.05 million in November 2013, and up from 1.99 million in November 2012.  A small increase over the last two years.

Inventory is not seasonally adjusted, and usually inventory decreases from the seasonal high in mid-summer to the seasonal lows in December and January as sellers take their homes off the market for the holidays. Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko sent me the seasonally adjusted inventory and this shows that inventory bottomed in January 2013, and is now up about 9.1% from the bottom on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Year-over-year Inventory The second graph shows the year-over-year (YoY) change in reported existing home inventory and months-of-supply. Note: Months-of-supply is based on the seasonally adjusted sales and not seasonally adjusted inventory.

Inventory increased 2.0% year-over-year in November from November 2013 (blue line).

Months of supply was at 5.1 months in November, unchanged from 5.1 months in November 2013.   Even with the increase in inventory over the last two years, the current supply is still very low.

The NAR numbers are the usual measure of inventory.  However Zillow also has some inventory data (by state, city, zip code and more here).   We have to be careful using the Zillow data because the coverage is probably increasing, but looking at the zip code data, it appears inventory is up about 9% year-over-year.  This ranges from a sharp year-over-year decrease in some cities (like Denver) to a sharp increase in other areas (like Bakersfield, CA).   The housing market is slowly moving back to normal, and real estate is local!

Whenever I talk with real estate agents, I ask why they think inventory is so low. A common reason for low inventory is that potential sellers can't find homes to buy (because inventory is so low). Another reason for low inventory is that many homeowners are still "underwater" on their mortgages and can't sell.  This is becoming less of a problem.

As the market moves back to normal, it seems homeowners will sell for the usual reasons (changing jobs, kids, etc).

Right now my guess is active inventory will increase further in 2015 (inventory will decline seasonally in December and January, but I expect to see inventory up again year-over-year in 2015).  I expect active inventory to move closer to 6 months supply this summer.   If correct, this will keep house price increases down in  2015.

Here are the ten questions for 2015 and a few predictions:
Question #2 for 2015: How many payroll jobs will be added in 2015?
Question #3 for 2015: What will the unemployment rate be in December 2015?
Question #4 for 2015: Will too much inflation be a concern in 2015?
Question #5 for 2015: Will the Fed raise rates in 2015? If so, when?
Question #6 for 2015: Will real wages increase in 2015?
Question #7 for 2015: What about oil prices in 2015?
Question #8 for 2015: How much will Residential Investment increase?
Question #9 for 2015: What will happen with house prices in 2015?
Question #10 for 2015: How much will housing inventory increase in 2015?