Fewer Homes for Sale

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Some good news for the housing market: the number of homes for sale keeps dropping.

That is reassuring to anyone worried about the value of their home and the overall economy. For optimists, it's another sign that the housing market is healing. Even pessimists can take some comfort. Fewer homes for sale now will give the markets more resilience if foreclosures rise again and flood the market with more inventory.

The were a total of 579,413 homes on for sale in 27 major markets across the country as of November. That's about 14,000 less than in October and more than 100,000 less than a year ago, according to a count by ZipRealty of homes listed for sale on the Multiple Listings Services.
Inventory fell in almost all regions covered by the reports, with a few exceptions.

Inventories rose in sprawling cities like Las Vegas; Orlando, Fla.; and Tucson, Ariz., that were heavily overbuilt during the real estate boom.

The inventory numbers don't include most foreclosed houses, since homes seized by banks and sold at auction don't usually get a formal real estate listing. However, the foreclosures news is also good - or at least less bad. The number of new foreclosures has been shrinking steadily for the last four months.

The inventory of homes for sale is expected to rise again this spring, but for relatively positive reasons. Analysts expect more homeowners to try to sell their homes in the usual way as the market appears to firm up and the federal home buyer tax credit approaches its latest expiration date in April.

"There is going to be a lot more inventory on the market by February or March," Patrick Lashinsky, chief executive officer of ZipRealty, told the Wall Street Journal.
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