Housing Inventory Tracking: The Bottom Turn

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Update: Watching existing home “for sale” inventory is very helpful. As an example, the increase in inventory in late 2005 helped me call the top for housing.

And the decrease in inventory eventually helped me correctly call the bottom for house prices in early 2012, see: The Housing Bottom is Here.

And in 2015, it appeared the inventory build in several markets was ending, and that boosted price increases. 

I don’t have a crystal ball, but watching inventory helps understand the housing market.

The graph below shows the year-over-year (YoY) change for non-contingent inventory in Houston, Las Vegas and Sacramento (all through May 2018), and also Phoenix (through April) and total existing home inventory as reported by the NAR (through April 2018).

Click on graph for larger image.

This shows the YoY change in inventory for Houston, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Sacramento.  The black line is the year-over-year change in inventory as reported by the NAR.

Note that inventory in Sacramento was up 30% year-over-year in May (inventory was still very low), and has increased YoY for eight consecutive months. 

Also note that inventory is still down 12% YoY in Las Vegas (red), but the YoY decline has been getting smaller – and inventory in Vegas will probably be up YoY very soon.

Houston is a special case, and inventory was up for several years due to lower oil prices, but declined YoY recently as oil prices increased.

Inventory is a key for the housing market, and I will be watching inventory for the impact of the new tax law and higher mortgage rates on housing.   Currently I expect national inventory to be up YoY by the end of 2018 (but still be low).  

This is not comparable to late 2005 when inventory increased sharply signaling the end of the housing bubble, but it does appear that inventory is bottoming nationally (and has already bottomed in some areas like California).

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