Triangle home sales increased 4 percent in May compared to the same period last year as the inventory of homes on the market continued to tick up.
There were 8,048 homes for sale at the end of May in Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake counties, a 5 percent increase from May 2013, according to Triangle Multiple Listing Services data. The number of new homes on the market jumped 16 percent while the number of existing homes for sale rose 3 percent.
Inventory levels in the region have been stuck at historically low levels as many homeowners have been reluctant to put their homes on the market for multiple reasons. Some owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth or are simply unsatisfied with what buyers are willing to pay.
This spring that dynamic has finally begun to shift. May marked the first time in 39 months that the Triangle had recorded a year-over-year increase in existing homes for sale.
I think thats directly related to the increase in house prices, said Stacey Anfindsen, a Cary appraiser who analyzes Triangle MLS data. And the fact that each month we go past the peak of the market people have made mortgage payments ... one more month of paying more principal could be the difference between putting your home on the market or not.
Various measurements show home prices in the Triangle rising anywhere from 2 percent to 6 percent annually, though fluctuations vary depending on location and price point.
The average price of all the Triangle homes that sold in May was $257,000, up 2 percent, according to MLS. The average price of existing homes that sold was $243,900, up 3 percent.
Home prices in Raleigh were up 5.4 percent in the first quarter compared with the same period a year ago, according to the Housing Price Index published by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Durham-Chapel Hill home prices increased 5.3 percent over the same period. The quarterly index is based on average price changes in repeat sales or refinancings on the same properties.
Kelly Cobb, a real estate agent with Fonville Morisey in Cary, said most agents have been perplexed about why it took so long for inventory to begin rising.
I felt like at some point people would say hey, even if I can just break even ... Im ready to move, she said.
While the inventory picture is improving, many buyers are still finding plenty of competition for certain homes.
I would say the scramble is $300,000 and under, Cobb said. And theres always the issue of buyers wanting a turnkey house thats priced correctly. Even in the higher ranges I dont think well have enough inventory this year.
Anfindsen said he expects inventory levels to continue to rise.
The majority of sellers know the market is strong and inventory is needed, he said.