New Housing Crisis: Not Enough to Buy

by MPA21 Jun 2012

(CNBC) -- Sales of existing homes declined in May, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors, not just because the overall housing market is struggling, but because there are simply not enough homes to buy.

There are currently 2.49 million for sale, a drop of 20 percent from a year ago. To make matters worse, supply is lowest on the low end, where so much of the investor activity has been over the past several years.

This lack of supply has seriously skewed the readings on home prices for the second straight month.

The median price of an existing home, as reported by the Realtors, rose 7.9 percent in May annually, but NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun was quick to point out that this does not mean the average home owner gained that much equity; it is simply a big shift in the type of home that is selling. Sales of homes priced under $100,000 dropped two percent from a year ago, while sales of homes priced between $250,000 and $500,000 shot up nearly 29 percent (though still at low volumes historically). Again, this is due to lack of supply on the low end, specifically distressed homes.

While there are still plenty of delinquent mortgages and homes in the foreclosure process, 5.57 million according to a new report from Lender Processing Services, the big bank servicers are still trying to go back and modify many of these loans. There is also still a huge backlog of foreclosures in judicial states like New Jersey, Florida and New York. Inventories of foreclosed properties in non-judicial states (where you don’t need a judge in the foreclosure process), like Arizona, have dropped to under a three-month supply.

Realtors say they did not see the usual spring bump in supply, as fewer regular homeowners put their homes on the market this year. The big question is, why not? Mortgage rates just hit yet another record low at 3.66 percent on the 30-year fixed, according to Freddie Mac. Home prices are stabilizing, if not gaining. Low supply should be a signal to homeowners that they could possibly get a bidding war. Still, nothing.

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