Triangle home buyers continued to compete for a dwindling supply of inventory in February, as sales increased 11 percent compared with the same period a year ago even as the number of homes on the market fell 14 percent.
There were just 5,248 homes for sale in Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake counties at the end of last month, Triangle Multiple Listing Services data show. The number of new homes on the market rose 17 percent but was more than offset by a 25 percent decline in listing for existing homes.
On a year-over-year basis, inventory levels have fallen for 18 consecutive months and are down 44 percent from four years ago.
The jockeying among buyers is likely to get more intense over the next three months, as the Triangle market enters its busiest period.
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“It’s going to be tight for the rest of the year,” said Stacey Anfindsen, a Cary appraiser who analyzes Triangle MLS data. “... Demand is going to increase because people are moving here and you have people in apartments who are eventually going to get sick of living in apartments.”
It will take significant price increases or a major event, such as a corporate relocation, to shake loose more supply, Anfindsen said.
The lack of supply is most pronounced in lower price points, said Ed Willer, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices York Simpson Underwood Realty in Raleigh.
“If it’s priced right it’s still gone by the weekend, particularly in the lower price range, up to about $400,000,” he said.
The lack of supply is already boosting prices and reducing the time it takes most homeowners to sell their property. The average price of the homes that sold last month was $265,900, up 7 percent from February 2015, and 23 percent higher than in February 2012.
The average days on the market of the homes that sold last month was 59, down 12 days from the same period a year ago.
Even that figure doesn’t adequately capture just how fast many homes are selling. Fifty-eight percent of re-sale listings that came on the market in February had their status change to pending or sold before the month was out.
Anfindsen said he’s begun calling these homes, which are listed and then put under contract before they’re ever recorded, as “virtual inventory.”
“From an economic standpoint it makes no sense that you have decreasing inventory and increasing sales but the inventory never shows up,” he said.
Given the current market dynamic, Anfindsen believes a better gauge of supply is the number of houses listed each month. There were 2,819 homes listed for sale in February in the Triangle, a 17 percent increase over the same period a year ago.
“I think we’re going to stop talking about inventory decreasing and focus on the number of houses listed during the month,” Anfindsen said. “It’s just the new thing.”
Willer said he’s hopeful more homeowners will test the market this spring. As for why many remain reluctant to put their homes up for sale, he said despite the recent price appreciation many are still recovering from the downturn in 2008 and 2009.
“They’re just getting their values back up to where they want to sell,” he said.