There were more than 2.19 million homes listed for sale at the end of September, down 20% from a year earlier, according to a new report from the real-estate website Realtor.com. That is the lowest level since the company began its count in 2007.
The report is the latest sign of how the U.S. housing market can’t seem to catch a break. While falling inventories are typically a sign of health, because reduced competition can boost prices, that isn’t the case right now.
The decline in inventory suggests that there are fewer opportunities for buyers and sellers to strike deals. That can further chill sales, as buyers become afraid to overpay while sellers are similarly cautious about underpricing their homes.
Listings were down by 49% in Miami, by 46% in Orlando, and by 38% in Naples. Housing inventory was down from one year earlier in all 146 markets tracked by Realtor.com except for Denver and El Paso, Texas.
The Realtor.com data include only single-family homes, townhouses and condominiums listed for sale on more than 900 multiple-listing services across the country. They don’t include unsold homes listed as “for sale by owner” or other properties that don’t find their way onto the multiple-listing services.
The National Association of Realtors calculated that there were 3.58 million single-family homes, townhouses and condos for sale at the end of August, down 28% from a year earlier, though still above levels seen in the first quarter of 2011. The calculation differs from Realtor.com’s because it estimates the entire universe of single-family homes for sale. The NAR is in the process of recalibrating its methodology. Both sets of data show housing inventory at a historic low.
Mortgage rates have fallen to their lowest levels in decades, but demand remains weak and credit standards tight. Mortgage applications for home purchases were 3% below year-ago levels during the first week of October, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.