Shrinking Inventory May Indicate Housing Recovery Start

Existing Home Supply June 2009

The national home supply is falling, down to its lowest levels since December 2008.

In June, there was 9.4 months of supply, down from a year-ago level of 11.0 months. It's one more sign that the housing market may be mending itself.

Housing supply is an important metric because home values across every U.S. market are rooted in Supply and Demand. When the supply of available homes outpaces buyer demand, home values tend to fall. And, by contrast, when homes are relatively scarce, values tend to rise.

We're still a long way from historical averages, but dwindling home inventory may be one reason why the national median sale price rose by $7,000 last month.

A reduction in inventory may also explain why two other popular home value metrics -- the government's Home Price Index and the private-sector's Case-Shiller Index -- are each showing signs of a rebound, too.

However, before we get too excited, it's important to remember that home sales of late have been spurred by low mortgage rates and by the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit. A real estate trade group says first-timers represent 29 percent of the market, for example.

But so long as rates remain low and buyer stimulus is in place, we can expect that the recent trends in real estate will continue. Inventory should continue to drop and prices should start to rise. And in a market like Philadelphia, where our inventory was not as large as some of the hard hit areas around the country, this may be even more significant. It would seem that for most home buyers, especially first time home buyers, now is certainly the time to act.

Therefore, if you're planning to buy a home in the next 12 months, buying sooner rather than later may be a smart way to save on your next home.

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