This, as the busy spring market is already on the verge of starting. "To say early buyer demand is strong in early 2017 is an understatement — it is titanic. Redfin data shows that buyers are out touring in droves, ready to pounce on new listings that fit the bill," said Nela Richardson, chief economist at Redfin. "The only thing missing is homes for sale to satisfy demand, because there just aren't a lot of homes available to buy right now. We are in a real estate black hole until those listings show up again."
In some local markets, the situation is more dire. The share of communities with supply at less than three months jumped from about 13 percent to more than 20 percent in the past year, according to a survey by Proteck Valuation Services, a real estate appraisal and analytics company. For example, in Dallas, the supply of homes for sale dropped by nearly 41 percent from December 2015 to December 2016.
"This means fierce competition for homes, where buyers that are able to act fast and pose less risk to the seller have the advantage. These 'favored' buyers would include those already pre-approved for a mortgage, those with larger cash down payments and those with no contingencies (like the sale of another home)," according to the Proteck report.
The shortage is being driven by surging demand and weak home construction. Single-family housing starts continue to rise, but very slowly each month. Builders are still operating at well below normal construction levels, and that doesn't even account for pent-up demand from the housing crisis and growing household formation.
"The homeownership rate is at a near 50-year low, and it could remain at this level," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the NAR. "I'm not sure if this is the trend that America wants."